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US Navy faces another major COVID-19 outbreak aboard warship in Pacific

File photo of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd in the Pacific Ocean on January 27, 2020.

The US Navy is reportedly fighting a new coronavirus outbreak on yet another one of its warships as 33 American sailors aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd have tested positive for the disease so far.

The Navy further announced in a statement on Saturday that the number of sailors currently infected on the warship – stationed off the Pacific coast of South America – have nearly doubled since a day earlier, when 18 service members were confirmed as testing positive for the contagion.

According to the Navy statement, an embarked medical team continues testing US sailors on the warship, two of whom have so far been medically evacuated to the United States.

The Navy further added that the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island is en route to meet with Kidd in case medical support is required at sea, noting that the Makin Island warship has a fleet surgical team, intensive care capacity and ventilators as well as additional testing capability.

“We are taking every precaution to ensure we identify, isolate, and prevent any further spread onboard the ship. Our medical team continues coordinating with the ship and our focus is the safety and well-being of every sailor,” said the commander of US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet, Rear Admiral Don Gabrielson, in a statement on Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman further added on Friday that the Kidd is preparing to return to port, where a portion of the crew will be transported ashore while the warship is cleaned.

Hoffman, however, was unable to say how the disease came aboard the US warship or how long the Kidd would be in port.

“Keep your fingers crossed,” he said. “The Navy is doing everything they can and we’re going to hope for the best outcome but we’re going take all the prudent steps that we possibly can.”

The destroyer with its crew of 350 is part of the Trump administration's deployment of Navy warships and aircraft to the Caribbean in a purported US “counter-narcotics” operation, which many observers view as a persisting military scheme to bring further pressure against Venezuela with the aim of toppling the government of President Nicholas Maduro.

Announcing the deployment earlier this month, Washington claimed the additional warships and aircraft were also aimed at preventing "corrupt actors" like Maduro from exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to smuggle more narcotics.

Maduro’s government, however, has denied such allegations and accused the Trump administration of trying to distract the public from its poor handling of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the USS Kidd is the second Navy ship at sea to report an outbreak of the coronavirus. American officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has reported more than 850 cases of infection among its nearly 5,000 crew members. Most of its crew has been moved ashore to quarantine on Guam.

More than 25 US warships have sailors infected with coronavirus

This is while the Navy has previously confirmed cases on at least two dozen other ships that are all in port.

US-based media outlets cited a Navy official as saying last week that sailors on 26 Navy ships have the coronavirus now and 14 other ships have had confirmed cases of illness, though crew members have recovered.

According to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, all the ships are in port and none of the 90 ships at sea have cases of the virus. The Navy has 297 warships.

The Navy official would not say which ships had cases of the virus or how many sailors were infected, only that it was small numbers.

The Navy has been the hardest hit of US military services by the coronavirus with 997 cases now. In total, 1,298 sailors have been infected by the virus.

The aircraft carrier was deployed to the Pacific last month when it first reported cases of COVID-19 among its crew, and it eventually had to dock in Guam and quarantine its crew ashore to slow the spread of the virus.

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