Sailor aboard ship in San Diego becomes first shipboard sailor to test positive for COVID-19

(March 6; 2020) Sailors and their family members watch a Landing Craft; Utility 1680 (LCU); enter the well deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) during a family day cruise (FDC). The FDC’s objective is to strengthen family ties and increase awareness and appreciation of the Navy and Marine Corps and its mission through personal interaction and experience. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Logan A. Southerland)

A sailor aboard the amphibious assault ship Boxer tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first ship-based U.S. Navy sailor to do so, the Navy announced in a statement Sunday.

The sailor, whose official status is “presumptive positive” until confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now in isolation at his or her off-base residence and the Navy is conducting a contact investigation to identify anyone who might have had contact with the sailor.

“People identified by the individual as having close contact have been notified and are in isolation at their residences,” according to a Navy official with knowledge of the case.

The sailor reported to a Navy medical clinic Friday that they were ill, according to the official. Tests results came back positive Saturday.

“USS Boxer is taking appropriate preventative measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the CDC and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center,” the Navy statement says.

The Boxer has a crew of more than 1,200 sailors and is currently in port at Naval Base San Diego, which announced its first COVID-19 case Saturday.

As with the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships, the close-quarters of life aboard ships have been vectors for the coronavirus. San Diego government officials announced Thursday that community spread of the virus was underway in the region.

“Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet is committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force,” the Navy’s statement says. “We remain in close coordination with state and federal authorities, and public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and local population.”

Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces in San Diego, told the Union-Tribune Sunday that any sailor from any ship who feels ill should not come to work.

“Sailors may be programmed to not call in sick but that’s exactly what we want them to do,” Flanders said. “If sailors are feeling ill, they should notify their chain of command. We don’t want sick sailors on our ships right now.”

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