Navy ship stuck in Guantanamo Bay after COVID-19 surge among 100% vaccinated crew

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A U.S. Navy warship is stuck in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba after some members of the fully-vaccinated crew tested positive for COVID-19.

According to USNI News, an “unspecified variant” has infected some of the crew aboard the USS Milwaukee, a littoral combat ship.

“The crew is 100 percent immunized and all COVID-19 positive sailors are isolated onboard and away from crew members. A portion of those infected have exhibited mild symptoms,” U.S. 4th Fleet spokeswoman Cmdr. Katherine Meadows noted in a Friday statement, the outlet reported.

“The specific COVID variant has yet to be determined and all CDC guidelines are being followed to include contact tracing and testing protocols,” Meadows added.

USNI News noted that a spokesperson for the sea service would not say how many sailors on board the warship had tested positive when asked on Friday.

The Freedom-class LCS left its homeport in Mayport, Fla., on Dec. 14 for a 4th Fleet deployment to U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). The ship pulled into ‘Gitmo’ on Dec. 20, the report said.

The news comes as the latest variant, omicron, spreads around the world after first being discovered in South Africa. The variant has been deemed to be far less serious and lethal than the original strain of COVID-19, according to reports. That said, omicron is now accounting for around 70 percent of new infections in the United States.

“The Navy was the first service exposed to large-scale outbreaks early in the pandemic when an outbreak aboard carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) in early 2020 resulted in a widespread infection of the crew and the death of a sailor in early 2020,” USNI News reported.

“However, quickly after the Roosevelt incident, the Navy has been largely successful in controlling outbreaks at sea with an aggressive vaccination push for deployed ships. To date, 17 sailors have died from COVID-19.”

News of the outbreak was also reported by Axios, which offered this take: “Be smart: ‘100% immunized’ doesn’t necessarily mean that USS Milwaukee sailors received booster shots, as third doses are not yet required for active duty military.”

The outlet also quoted Meadows, who told the Washington Post that booster vaccines “are not yet mandatory but recommended.” She also said that the ship’s captain has imposed a strict mask mandate as well.

“Top Defense Department leaders are evaluating whether to begin mandating booster shots, as well, with public health experts saying an additional shot can help recharge waning immunity and ward off severe disease and hospitalization,” the Post reported.

The spokeswoman went on to say that some of the personnel aboard the Milwaukee who have tested positive have displayed only mild symptoms, according to the Post. She also said it’s not clear how long the warship will have to remain at port.

The Navy’s vaccination rate is high, but across the service, the Post reported, some 9,000 sailors remain only partially vaccinated as of last week.


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