WASHINGTON — Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said they want more details about a coronavirus outbreak onboard a Navy aircraft carrier and how Congress can help the situation. A letter to the Acting Secretary of the Navy comes after the Captain of the U.S.S Theodore Roosevelt sent his own letter pleading for help. He said if the Navy doesn't take action, sailors will die. That message is hitting home with the military families left behind.
Deployments are hard enough. One parent takes on the role of two. He or she has all the work and all the worry, hoping the sailor comes back safely. That anxiety is a lot of weight and that's before the fears of a COVID-19 outbreak are factored in.
"As the Captain, it's important for me to maintain an open dialogue with the families," U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier wrote to the families of those on the ship, in a letter obtained by WUSA9.
It’s a grim warning that makes you fear what he's going to say next. Captain Crozier describes the growing outbreak on the ship.
"Sailors are our top priority and we will do everything we can to keep them safe," he stated.
"Well, what about those families," Ashish Vazirani, Executive Director of the National Military Family Association, asked. "If they're seeing that the CO of the ship is concerned about their service member, is there a greater level of concern that they should have? Also, what does this mean for them when they come home? Does that mean that they’ll go into quarantine? Will that extend the duration of the time apart?"
The greater level of concern stems from the brutal honesty of the ship's commander. Social distancing on an aircraft carrier is almost impossible, so what can they do?
"We cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily," Crozier said in a different letter to Navy leaders. "Decisive action is required."
We asked Vazirani what making letters like this public does for the families.
"I think making the letter public certainly raises the level of awareness, but it also heightens the sense of concern," he said. "In uncertain times, transparency is important, and I think what the Captain has done is has been very transparent with his leaders and with the people under his command and their families around the conditions."
Navy leaders said Wednesday they're taking action to clean the ship and hope to have about 2,700 sailors off the ship in the coming days.
"Our plan has always been to remove as much of the crew as we can while maintaining the ship's safety," Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly said. "This ship has weapons on it. it has munitions on it. it has expensive aircraft and it has a nuclear power plant. it requires a certain number of people on the ship to maintain that safety. and security of the ship."
To see if these actions help, all the families at home can do, as with any deployment, is wait.
"One of the things the National Military Family Association is focused on doing is helping them reduce their level of uncertainty," Vazirani said. "These are uncertain and unprecedented times."
Letter from Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine: