By Mimi Nguyen Ly
A U.S. Navy warship has paused its deployment to South America due to a COVID-19 outbreak among its “100 percent immunized” crew, the Navy announced on Christmas Eve.
“USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), a Freedom variant littoral combat ship, remains in port as some Sailors test positive for COVID-19,” the U.S. 4th Fleet said in a statement.
“The crew is 100 percent immunized and all COVID-19 positive Sailors are isolated on board and away from other crew members. A portion of those infected have exhibited mild symptoms. The vaccine continues to demonstrate effectiveness against serious illness.”
The ship currently remains in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, located at the southeastern end of Cuba.
It had departed Dec. 14 from Mayport, Florida, and was heading into the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
The U.S. 4th Fleet’s statement did not quantify the number of those infected, nor how many among them are exhibiting mild symptoms.
The specific COVID-19 variant has yet to be determined. The ship is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for contact tracing and testing.
COVID-19 cases have recently increased drastically across the United States amid the spread of the contagious Omicron variant.
The ship is also “following an aggressive mitigation strategy” in accordance with Navy and CDC guidelines.
In early 2020, a separate Navy warship, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt that was operating in the Pacific region, was sidelined for about 10 weeks in Guam owing to an outbreak of COVID-19. About 1,000 of the 4,800 sailors on the ship got infected, and a 41-year-old sailor died from COVID-19.
About 4,000 sailors were moved ashore for quarantine and treatment while about 800 remained aboard to protect and run the high-tech systems, including the nuclear reactors that run the vessel.
More than 98 percent of all active-duty sailors have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Navy.