Sailors left on the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt are being ordered to clean it even as they await test results — with nothing but torn T-shirts to use as masks, according to a report Wednesday.
The aircraft carrier has already had 286 confirmed coronavirus infections, the Navy said Wednesday — a scandal that led to its whistleblower captain being fired and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigning.
Many of the sailors still aboard the ship stranded off Guam are awaiting results to see if they are infected, too — and are left with minimal protective equipment beyond latex gloves, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Most have to use T-shirts in place of masks — seemingly following a directive from the Pentagon for most of the military, the report insists.
“As an interim measure, all individuals are encouraged to fashion face coverings from household items or common materials, such as clean T-shirts or other clean cloths that can cover the nose and mouth area,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a memo to military departments, according to the Chronicle.
“Medical personal protective equipment such as N95 respirators or surgical masks will not be issued for this purpose as these will be reserved for the appropriate personnel,” he reportedly instructed.
Neither the Navy nor Pentagon immediately responded to requests for comment from The Post.
It was also not clear if the reported directive would also apply to the USNS Comfort currently helping the coronavirus crisis in New York.
Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have demanded that the Pentagon provide an accounting of its personal protective equipment and medical supplies, the Chronicle said.
“Without essential medical supplies and personal protective equipment, the coronavirus crisis could expand rapidly from a medical risk for (Defense Department) personnel to an operational and strategic threat to our national security interests,” wrote Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch.
San Mateo Rep. Jackie Speier, who chairs the military personnel subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Chronicle that she was “extremely disappointed” with the Navy’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been told that they have adequate PPE (personal protective equipment), but if they have adequate PPE, why wasn’t there a sufficient amount flown out to the Teddy Roosevelt?” she said.
One sailor’s father, Mark Blakewood, told the San Francisco newspaper that his son remained on the Theodore Roosevelt even as he showed key signs of being infected, having lost his sense of taste and smell.
He was ordered to help clean the warship — only getting removed after his positive test for the coronavirus came through, the report says.
Many relatives accused the government of leaving the servicemen at risk — even after the scandal sparked by Capt. Brett Crozier’s whistleblowing letter about the crisis, also first reported by the Chronicle.
“Their jobs can put them in harm’s way at times, but they understand and prepare for those situations. This has been different,” one family member told the paper.
While the Navy did not respond to the Chronicle, Rear Adm. John Menoni, the senior military official on Guam, had said Monday that cleaning aboard the ship was being handled appropriately.
“I’m assured they have the supplies on the ship that they need to do that cleaning,” he said at a news conference.