Anti-COVID-19 protocols extend to prepositioned ships

Posted on May 25 2020

Protocols for social distancing and frequent handwashing as a means to prevent COVID-19 infections are in place not only on land but also on the prepositioned ships of the U.S. military’s off the coast of Saipan.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Rick Moore, Joint Region Marianas spokesperson, he can only speak on the behalf of the seven prepositioned ships of the U.S. military but crewmembers on these ships have strict rules to follow to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This means limiting docking their ships, practicing social distancing, and sanitizing common spaces on the ships. That also includes crewmembers departing the ships only for medical or official business and using personal protective equipment.

“We continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk to protect our sailors and civilian mariners,” said Moore.

He assured that the Navy takes the health and wellbeing of their people seriously to help prevent the spread of the virus to U.S. territories and partner nations while also maintaining their warfighting readiness.

“Personnel embarking and disembarking the prepositioned ships will meet U.S. Pacific Fleet’s requirements for Restriction of Movement prior to further movement,” said Moore.

Additionally, Moore said that all personnel embarking on these U.S. Navy vessels are screened prior to boarding the ships. Members who show any symptoms will be referred to medical.

There are currently seven prepositioned ships in the Saipan harbor. They are officially called Maritime Prepositioning Squadron Three, or MPSRON 3.

Navy ship in Guam

Six days shy of being sidelined for two months in Guam due to a coronavirus outbreak among its crew, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt left last May 21. They have been there since March 27 after the number of crew members tested positive for COVID-10. More than 1,000 sailors had contracted the virus; many of them have since recovered. One crewmember later died.

The Navy announced earlier this week that some 3,000 sailors will continue on with the mission, while 1,800 others will remain in quarantine in Guam.

“We are scaling our manning on board based on our mission requirement,” said Capt. Carlos Sardiello, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer. “Carrier qualification requires fewer personnel than other missions, and bringing fewer sailors on board will enable enhanced social distancing while underway.”

The sailors who tested negative had spent 14 days in quarantine at hotel sites outside the Navy base before being allowed to return to the aircraft carrier. Multiple sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt are also natives of Guam.The USS Theodore Roosevelt is the nation’s fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000 sailors who support and conduct air operations at sea. The ship had left San Diego, California, for a scheduled Indo-Pacific deployment on Jan. 17.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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