April 17, 2020

Wyden Presses Navy for Answers About COVID-19 Outbreak & Sailors’ Safety as More Test Positive

“[W]e remain concerned that the Navy is not sufficiently responding to the needs of military and civilian personnel”

Washington, D.C. – With more than 600 USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT sailors testing positive for COVID-19 and outbreaks on four aircraft carriers, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today joined a group of 19 senators calling on the Navy to protect its personnel and to answer urgent questions about safety protocols to prevent further spread of the virus among others in its fleet.  

“[T]he Navy must reconsider its current assumption that servicemembers are at low-risk for serious COVID-19 cases after alarming statements by multiple Pentagon leaders downplayed health hazards,” the senators wrote in a letter to Acting Navy Secretary James McPherson. “It is increasingly apparent that young and otherwise healthy people are not immune from serious complications after contracting COVID-19, and such assumptions could dangerously dissuade DoD personnel from seeking medical assistance, prevent medical professionals from responding appropriately to deteriorating health conditions, or compromise health outcomes for any servicemembers or civilians who contract COVID-19.”

The senators noted the close quarters in which sailors operate make the naval fleet particularly vulnerable to the spread of infection, and urged the Navy to apply lessons learned from the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT COVID-19 spread to ensure the same does not happen onboard other vessels. Referencing reports about poor conditions endured by sailors put in isolation because of suspected infection, the lawmakers demanded answers to ensure sailors’ health and safety is prioritized. 

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Chris Van Hollen D-Md., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Tina Smith, D-Minn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Tom Carper, D-Del., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

A copy of the letter is available here.