Congressmen Panetta, Bipartisan Coalition Pressing Navy Officials for Plan to Protect Deployed Sailors and Marines from Spread of COVID-19

April 2, 2020
Press Release

SALINAS, CA – Yesterday, Congressman Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley) joined a bipartisan coalition of twenty-six Members of Congress in writing to Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael M. Gilday to express concern for the health and safety of American sailors and Marines embarked on Navy vessels and facing the spread of COVID-19.  Their letter follows news of the spread of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), and specifically requests more information on the steps being taken by the U.S. Navy to address the potential emergence of COVID-19 on deployed ships, and to enact clear and effective guidance for commanding officers.

In their letter, the Members wrote:

“We write to you today with urgent concern about the health and safety of our sailors and Marines embarked on Navy vessels facing the spread of COVID-19.

“Like the nation, the Navy is faced with the challenge of limiting the spread of this deadly virus. However, shipboard life, with limited space for social distancing or quarantine, presents unique challenges that exacerbate the infection rate of this virus. Unfortunately, we are concerned that current guidance form the Department of Defense has allowed for inconsistent response to the spread of the virus on our ships and submarines. With further spread of the virus expected in the coming weeks, it is critical that the Navy, like our states and communities across the nation, take additional steps now to prepare.

“We welcome the announcement of the rotation of sailors off the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), but only after public reports emerged of the rapid spread of the virus following a thorough, measured missive from her commanding officer. […]

“To that end, we ask for your urgent response outlining the steps being taken to address the potential emergence of COVID-19 on deployed ships, as well as enacting clear and effective guidance for commanding officers across the fleet to manage and respond to this issue as quickly as possible.”

To read the full letter, click here.