The US Navy relieved the captain of the COVID-19-infected aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt of duty after he wrote a letter to US Navy leaders demanding support in quarantining the crew, US officials told Reuters on Thursday.
During a press conference Thursday, acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly explained that Crozier was not being relieved of duty for writing the letter but because he sent it outside the chain of command. Doing so, Modly noted, “raised alarm bells unnecessarily” that undermined the efforts by the Navy to contain the virus.
Modly also noted that Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” amid the outbreak and that sending the letter so broadly was “completely unnecessary to do.”
“It created the perception that the Navy is not on the job, the government is not on the job and it’s just not true,” Modly noted.
“I did not make this decision lightly. I have no doubt in my mind that Captain Crozier did what he thought was in the best interest of the safety and well-being of his crew,” Modly added.
Regarding the Monday letter from Crozier, Modly told reporters on Wednesday: “I don’t know who leaked the letter to the media. That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline, if he were responsible for that. But I don’t know that.”
“The fact that he wrote the letter up to his chain of command to express his concerns would absolutely not result in any type of retaliation,” Modly added.
In the letter that was published Tuesday by the San Francisco Chronicle, Crozier wrote, “Request all available resources to find NAVADMIN [Navy Personnel Command] and CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] compliant quarantine rooms for my entire crew as soon as possible.”
“This will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset – our sailors,” the statement continues.
The warship docked in Guam last week after several members of its crew tested positive for COVID-19. According to an anonymous source who spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are now around 200 cases of the virus on the ship. About two weeks earlier, which is the virus’s incubation period, the ship was docked at the Vietnamese port of Da Nang. The crew members were in contact with locals. The latest data by Worldometer shows that there are at least 227 cases of the coronavirus in Vietnam.