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Old 03-25-2020, 05:57 AM
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Arrow Coronavirus infects US aircraft carrier after port call in Vietnam, three sailors eva

Coronavirus infects US aircraft carrier after port call in Vietnam, three sailors evacuated
By: Jamie McIntyre - Washington Examiner - 03-25-20

SAILORS ON USS ROOSEVELT SICKENED: The Navy revealed yesterday that three sailors had to be evacuated from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and other crew members isolated aboard ship after the three tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The Roosevelt, now at sea in the Pacific Ocean, made a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam, late last month and early this month, but Navy officials could not say if that was the source of the infection.

“I think it would be difficult to tie down these active cases to that particular port visit,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday at a Pentagon news conference. “We've had aircraft flying to and from the ship, and so we just don't want to say it was that particular port visit; although we took great precautions when the crew came back from that shore period to do enhanced medical screening of the crew.”

During the time the Roosevelt was in port, there were only 16 reported cases of COVID-19 in Vietnam, all well to the north in the capital of Hanoi, far from Da Nang, which is known as the tourist capital of south central Vietnam.

An undisclosed number of crew members who came in contact with the infected sailors have been isolated on board the massive ship and kept under observation.

SOCIAL DISTANCING VS. MISSION PERFORMANCE: The Roosevelt is a supercarrier with a crew of 5,000 and a 4-and-a-half-acre deck, but still, it’s hard to maintain social distancing when you have a mission to perform.

“In an operational environment, sometimes it's very difficult, but people are very mindful of the environment that we're operating in right now with COVID, and they're trying to take those precautions as best we can,” said Gilday.

At a virtual town hall for military members and civilian DoD employees, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said it’s simply not practical for troops in the field to always stay 6 feet apart. “You can't get social distancing in a submarine, or even in a tank, right? I've been in both,” Esper said. “But you take prudent measures as best you can, given the situation you're in.”

In response to a submitted question about why mass unit formations were still being conducted, Esper said, “We have a mission, and … maintaining that mission, mission readiness, includes physical fitness.”

When it comes to enforcing social distancing, the Pentagon is relying on the judgment of lower-level commanders. “We have to leave a lot of these decisions to the operational commanders, to understand what their missions are and how critical they are,” said Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. “It's almost impossible to try and micromanage those types of decisions.”

COMBATING FEAR WITH FACTS: Along with battling the coronavirus, the Pentagon is also combating the viral spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories. “There has been no talk whatsoever of martial law. There has been no talk whatsoever of mass quarantines of the United States or any of that other nonsense that is out there,” said Esper during yesterday’s town hall forum.

“So one of the things we're going to do is, we're going to set up, in the next day or so, a page on our DoD website that we'll call ‘Mythbusters,’ that will kind of look at what's out there in terms of the rumor mill, and we'll be able to answer those and knock them down and keep them posted up there so people can refer to that page as to what's happening.”

In a video on his official Twitter account, National Guard Chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel called on Guard members to “stop this rumor,” that it will be used to police a quarantine of Americans. “We’re not doing that,” he said, urging troops to tweet out the message.

THE RACE TO BUILD HOSPITALS: As New York is bracing for what is now projected as a need for as many as 140,000 hospital beds in as soon as two weeks, the Army Corps of Engineers is busy converting the sprawling Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan into a 1,000-bed hospital.

“We have 53,000 beds. We need 140,000 beds,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The emergency hospitals that we're building in Westbury and Stonybrook and at the Westchester Convention Center will be helpful, but they are nowhere near the number of beds that we need.”

Similar efforts are underway around the country, including in Baltimore, Maryland, where the city’s convention center is also being converted into a 250-bed facility. “Most people think that we're weeks away from the peak, if not months,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told CNN. “That's what the advice we're getting from the smart folks at Johns Hopkins and NIH and University of Maryland and places like that.”

BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Shortly after midnight this morning, the Trump administration and Senate leaders agreed on a massive $2 trillion relief package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home,” reports the Associated Press.

“It’s good news for families all across America,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the bipartisan agreement on the largest stimulus package in U.S. history. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help American workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.”

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by David Sivak. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email, and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.

Subscribe today to the Washington Examiner magazine and get Washington Briefing: politics and policy stories that will keep you up to date with what's going on in Washington. SUBSCRIBE NOW: Just $1.00 an issue!

HAPPENING TODAY, TIME TO SUBJECT WOMEN TO THE DRAFT: The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service releases its final report this morning, and according to Texas Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, it will recommend that women be required to register for the military draft just like men.

“Opening Selective Service to women is just one of their recommendations,” said Thornberry in a statement. “I look forward to examining the data and arguments the commission has compiled more closely.”

The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer force since 1973, when conscription was ended after the Vietnam War, but 18-year-old males are still required to register with the government in the event the draft is reinstated in the future.

The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service was charged by Congress in 2017 with reviewing the Selective Service System, along with military, national, and public service. Over the past two and a half years, the commission conducted research and held public hearings and conversations with the public across the nation.

REED TO TRUMP — USE THE FULL POWER OF DPA: Sen. Jack Reed, top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, says President Trump’s failure to utilize his authority under the Defense Production Act fully is “indefensible” and could lead to a shortage of life-saving supplies such as ventilators, respirators, and personal protective gear.

Reed is urging the Trump administration to establish a DPA team and central coordination office to use the powerful authorities under the law.

Yesterday, the governor of New York railed against Trump’s resistance to invoking the law to mandate the immediate manufacture of more ventilators. “I need the ventilators in 14 days. Only the federal government has that power. And not to exercise that power is inexplicable to me,” Cuomo said.

He said while it’s “a beautiful thing” that companies are coming forward and volunteering to make ventilators, they can’t make them fast enough without federal help. “General Motors and Ford and people are willing to get into the ventilator business,” Cuomo said. “It does us no good if they start to create a ventilator in three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We're looking at an apex of 14 days. If we don't have the ventilators in 14 days, it does us no good.”

GRAHAM BACKS REDUCTION IN U.S. AID TO AFGHANISTAN: South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who calls himself “the strongest supporter of our continued presence in Afghanistan,” says he’s totally on board with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tough line with Afghanistan’s divided government.

“I totally support Secretary of State Pompeo’s decision to reduce $1 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan,” Graham said in a statement. “If the two major candidates for president are not able to work together to form a functioning government, all future aid should be reevaluated because you’re throwing good money after bad.”

“Without a functioning government, Afghanistan is becoming a hopeless cause. This is a terrible outcome for the people of Afghanistan, the United States, and the region. The only way to avoid this is for the two candidates to reconcile their differences quickly,” he said.

ATTACK CONDEMNED: Meanwhile, Afghanistan remains a very violent place. Yesterday, Pompeo issued a statement condemning an attack on Afghan politician Zarifa Ghafari, who received an award as a woman of courage from the State Department just three weeks ago.

Ghafari was attacked by an unknown gunman Sunday but escaped unharmed.

“We strongly condemn the recent attack on Zarifa Ghafari, the mayor of Maidan Shar, Wardak province,” Pompeo said. “We are relieved that she and her fellow passengers survived this cowardly attack unharmed.”

“We urge Afghan authorities to fully investigate and prosecute those who opened fire on her vehicle. The future of Afghanistan lies with those who seek peace and political solutions, not those who use violence and intimidation to threaten Afghan women,” he said.

SYRIA’S MISERY COMPOUNDS: The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations notes that the Syrian government has reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Damascus but says a significantly higher number of cases has gone unreported.

UOSSM predicts “a parabolic jump” in cases over the next two weeks in northwestern Syria, where the United Nations reports there are 4 million people living in densely populated conditions with little access to healthcare.

“Over 80% of the medical infrastructure in Syria is operating at a limited capacity and COVID-19 testing kits are extremely inaccessible,” says the international humanitarian organization. “In Idlib, there are 201 ICU beds and only 95 ventilators. Medical staff suffer from a shortage of masks, gloves, gowns, disinfectant, thermal scanners and other medical supplies.”

PUTIN’S REVANCHIST MISCHIEF: The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War warns that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using multiple, ongoing crises, including the COVID-19 outbreak, to advance his strategic objectives in Ukraine without drawing attention from the West.

“Ukrainian officials agreed on March 11 to the Kremlin’s demands to consider direct discussions with the Kremlin-controlled proxies in Donbas,” the group says. “This agreement for further talks could launch an irreversible process of internationally legitimizing Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine — one of Putin’s core objectives.”

PARADE REST: One of the more enjoyable traditions of summer in Washington, the weekly Friday Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I Streets SE, will be postponed for two weeks and is now scheduled to start May 15 instead of May 1.

“Postponement of Parade Season aligns with local and federal guidance to suspend events with large gatherings in order to limit the impact of the COVID-19 threat on the health and safety of the public and Marine Barracks Washington personnel,” the Marine Corps said in a statement yesterday.

The Evening Parade features: "The President's Own," United States Marine Band; "The Commandant's Own," the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps; the Marine Corps Color Guard; the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Ceremonial Marchers; and Lance Cpl. Chesty XV, the official mascot of Marine Barracks Washington.

Quote of the Day: “The white hulls and red crosses of these hospital ships have long become a welcome site around the world, standing at the forefront of our humanitarian mission … They represent all that is good about the American people that they represent. And now, they will serve our own people in this time of need.”

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, on the deployment of the hospital ships Comfort and Mercy to New York and Los Angeles.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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