Five Navy sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for coronavirus after appearing to have recovered from COVID-19 — forcing further quarantine measures for the ship.
The men tested positive for the virus after the aircraft carrier docked in Guam in March, but were cleared to return to the ship after a pair of negative tests spaced one or two days apart.
The seemingly mysterious resurgence of infections interests researchers trying to understand the novel virus, including how immunity works.
The Navy said on Friday that the sailors returned to duty and then reported symptoms before testing positive again.
“These five Sailors developed influenza-like illness symptoms and did the right thing reporting to medical for evaluation,” the Navy said in a statement.
In South Korea, a recent study of 277 patients who appeared to contract the virus a second time determined that false-positive testing was responsible. Tests identified dead virus still in people’s bodies, not a second active infection, the research found.
An outbreak of the virus aboard the Roosevelt allows authorities a rare opportunity to study a contained population that’s not free to leave federal custody. About 1,000 of 4,800 crew members tested positive after the ship docked in Guam.
About a quarter of the infected men have been cleared to return to work.
The Roosevelt’s infections became national news when Capt. Brett Crozier warned outside his chain of command about an outbreak. His message was leaked to the media, for which he was fired from command by then-Navy acting secretary Thomas Modly.
Modly in turn resigned after profanely defending his ouster of Crozier to the beloved captain’s crew, saying he was “too naive or too stupid” for command if he thought his warning about the virus would not leak.
President Trump has repeatedly weighed in on the ship’s leadership issues, expressing sympathy for Crozier while saying he “didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway” circulating his concerns in writing.
In his email, Crozier wrote: “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.” Modly told sailors the ship they should instead project strength in “knocking down this virus just like [we] would knock down the Chinese or the North Koreans or the Russians.”
Crozier, who himself reportedly tested positive for the virus, is temporarily assigned to a Navy staff job in San Diego.