An epidemic aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt began in late March and plunged the navy into a leadership crisis after the captain delivered a letter calling for swifter action to protect his sailors.
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Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, fired Captain Brett E. Crozier, then assaulted him during a speech on the ship in Guam, saying that Crozier was “too naive or too stupid” to lead a aircraft carrier. Modly resigned Tuesday after facing a backlash and after publicly apologizing for her comments on Crozier.
The carrier was docked in the United States for more than a week while the crew of 4,865 people were tested for the virus and moved ashore. More than 580 seafarers have been confirmed infected. One of them was hospitalized in intensive care on Thursday, said General John Hyten, vice president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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More than 1,700 sailors who tested negative isolate themselves in hotels, while the sick remain on the base, naval officials said.
“Our people are slapped,” said Hope Cristobal, who is concerned that officials will make security promises they will not keep.
She lives less than a quarter of a mile from the hotels in Tumon, Guam’s version of the popular Waikiki district of Hawaii, saying, “We don’t know exactly where they are staying. “
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Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, refused to identify the hotels but said that up to 10 have been reserved to accommodate up to 4,000 sailors. Seven of them have already stopped taking bookings and have seen a dramatic drop in visitor numbers as airlines canceled their flights, she said.
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Guam hotels frequently host military personnel, and the United States Department of Defense controls approximately one third of the island, 3,800 miles (6,115 kilometers) west of Honolulu and a crucial strategic center for U.S. forces in the Peaceful.
Each sailor stays in a room full of sheets, towels and water for two weeks, said Rhodes. There is no contact with the hotel staff and only the military police and medical teams can visit.
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The navy has sent masks, gloves and other safety gear to hotels, where employees make food that military personnel deliver, Rhodes said.
Excluding sailors, Guam has 133 confirmed cases of coronavirus and five deaths on Saturday.
Officials are focusing on stopping the spread of the virus, said Governor Lou Leon Guerrero, announcing that sailors can stay in hotels.
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“I know there will be a small choir of cynics who will oppose this decision, but now is not the time for” us against them “,” she told reporters on April 1. “We can protect Guam while being human with them. “
Reverend Fran Hezel said that people are probably not so upset with this decision.
“Frankly, I don’t think it’s really a problem because I think people have bigger fish to fry,” said Hezel, parish priest of Santa Barbara Catholic church in Dededo, the most populous village from Guam.
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Most people are friendly because many in Guam are in the Navy or have relatives who are.
“I have come to the conclusion that Guam? has as deep ties to the military as it does to the Catholic faith, “he said, noting that the vast majority of the islanders are Catholic.
Quarantine sailors actually benefit some small hotels, said the hotel association Rhodes. The Navy has taken over hotels with more than 300 rooms, and other clients have been moved to smaller properties struggling amid cancellations.
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Rhodes said that the “necessary measures” were in place to protect the public.
These assurances are not enough for Cristobal and others. She said the sailors add to an already stressful situation: “I am short of breath, and I wonder if it is COVIDE or is it my anxiety. “
For the most part, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with other health conditions, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
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Some have urged the governor to reconsider allowing sailors to stay in hotels, including I Hagan Famalaoan Guahan, a group that supports Chamorro women, the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands, which includes Guam.
“Being negative today doesn’t mean they won’t be in a week,” the group said in a statement. “The decision to house them in the middle of our community is to play a game of chance with the health of our people.”
Associated Press reporter Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
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