Navy Ship Stranded After 25% of Fully Vaccinated Crew Test Positive for COVID-19

By Victor Westerkamp | December 30, 2021
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A Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) remains in port after about 25 percent of its 100 percent immunized crew tested positive for COVID-19. (Image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Lau)

A U.S. navy ship has been sidelined after 25 percent of its fully vaccinated crew tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the leadership to say that the vaccine “continues to demonstrate its effectiveness against serious illness.”

In a press release issued by the U.S. Navy on Dec. 24, it read:

“NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY — USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), a Freedom variant littoral combat ship, remains in port as some Sailors test positive for COVID-19. The crew is 100% immunized and all COVID-19 positive Sailors are isolated on board and away from other crew members. A portion of those infected have exhibited mild symptoms. The vaccine continues to demonstrate effectiveness against serious illness.”

On Dec. 14 the ship departed Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida for its regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations. It sailed out to its deployment in the U.S. Southern Command area located in the Caribbean where its mission was to combat narcotics trafficking.

The USS Milwaukee later arrived in port at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, where it’s being held at dock possibly to wait for the outbreak to subside, while the approximately two dozen infected sailors are being isolated from the rest of the crew.

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Symptoms are mild or absent, a Guantanamo Bay base hospital spokesman told the New York Times, adding that its medical health team stayed in “close contact with [the] medical” team aship.

An anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press (AP) that “the Navy believes the total vaccination of the crew is the key factor in controlling the outbreak.” 

Meanwhile, the agency is preparing its members for a third booster shot which may be part of  “an aggressive mitigation strategy” the ship has implemented in accordance with Navy and CDC guidelines, news outlet ZeroHedge reported.

Earlier outbreaks

Outbreaks like these are not uncommon on Navy ships where vaccination rates have reached  98 percent, according to naval force data.

Another warship, the destroyer USS Halsey had to postpone its trip to San Diego from its homeport at Pearl Harbor after a considerable number of its 300-member crew tested positive earlier in December, Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, spokesman for the 3rd Fleet told the AP.

According to the news agency, an anonymous Navy official revealed that roughly a third of the fully-vaccinated crew had tested positive and were about to receive their third booster shot.

Robertson said some positive cases were analyzed and showed the infections were driven by the Omicron variant, without providing proof to substantiate the claim.  

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The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Pacific Ocean. USS Theodore Roosevelt that was serving in the Pacific territories, was put out of service for about 10 weeks in Guam after 26 percent of its crew tested positive in early 2020. (Image: U.S. Navy handout via Getty Images)

In early 2020, due to a COVID-19 flare-up, a separate Navy warship, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt that was serving in the Pacific territories, was put out of service for about 10 weeks in Guam. One 41-year-old sailor was said to have died from the virus.

Reportedly 1,271 of the 4,800 servicemen who were not vaccinated on the Theodore Roosevelt tested positive, which equals roughly 26 percent of the crew, which is about the same rate as the current outbreak on the USS Milwaukee. 

Questions raised

The current outbreaks on marine ships, where a fully vaccinated crew often stays isolated from the outside world for weeks, have raised questions over the effectiveness of vaccines developed to fight COVID-19.

Moreover, others question the theories about the virus’ transmissibility and the existence of all kinds of variants that keep popping up.

Some Twitter users commented in favor of the assertions made in the Navy statement that the vaccine continued to demonstrate effectiveness.

“If you expect there to be no breakthrough infections, then you have no idea how vaccines work,” one user wrote.

Another commenter wrote: “From a logic perspective, the line, ‘The vaccine continues to demonstrate effectiveness against serious illness’ is speculative even though it’s presented as declarative. Young and healthy people generally have mild or no symptoms. Now if the crew was old and obese…”