U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier, who was fired this week after sending a letter requesting assistance for sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt nuclear powered aircraft carrier, has tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Citing two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s, the New York Times reports that he began exhibiting symptoms before he left the carrier on Thursday. Crozier was fired after sending a letter to roughly 20 or 30 people in the Navy and asking the service to shift its focus from testing sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt for covid-19 and instead work to disembark the majority of the ship’s nearly 5,000 sailors. The letter was subsequently published by the San Francisco Chronicle.
“We are not at war,” Crozier said in the letter. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
Thomas Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, said he had lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to command the ship effectively. Modly said Crozier’s letter caused unnecessary alarm about the operational readiness of the ship and undermined the chain of command, given that Crozier neglected to inform his immediate superior. The acting secretary also said that, by sending the letter to so many people in the Navy, Crozier did not take care to ensure it couldn’t be leaked, which is part of his responsibility.
The Navy has declined to comment on Crozier’s “covid status,” according to the Times.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday that there are currently 155 confirmed cases of covid-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is now docked in Guam. Esper said that more than half of the sailors on the ship had been tested and there were no hospitalizations.
Although Crozier will remain in the Navy and maintain his rank, his dismissal from the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been controversial. President Donald Trump, for instance, said on Saturday that he agreed with the Navy’s decision to fire Crozier and that “he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter.”
“I thought it was terrible what he did,” Trump said.
Nonetheless, other members of the government do not share Trump’s view. In a statement this week, the Democratic leaders of the House Armed Services Committee said that dismissing Crozier at this critical moment, as the sailors aboard the USS Theodore deal with the covid-19 pandemic, was a destabilizing move that would likely put service members at greater risk and jeopardize the fleet’s readiness.
“Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction,” the lawmakers wrote.
In addition, Crozier has received wide showing of support from the sailors he served with on the ship. Hundreds of sailors cheered and clapped for Crozier as he left the USS Theodore Roosevelt this week.
Crozier has been reassigned to Naval Air Forces Pacific command headquarters in San Diego, but must complete a quarantine period first, per the Times. He is reportedly being quarantined on Naval Base Guam.