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As USS Theodore Roosevelt begins recovery, Esper says COVID-19 has had 'low impact' on readiness

Thousands of sailors return to the aircraft carrier to take part in an all-hands deep cleaning of the ship.

WASHINGTON — The USS Theodore Roosevelt, with more than 1,100 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, is now well into its recovery phase.

This weekend, they held what they called a "bleach-a-palooza." Cleaning teams spent the weekend doing an "all-hands" deep cleaning and sanitizing of the aircraft carrier.

Four thousand sailors who have been quarantined off the ship in local hotels in Guam for 14 days and who continue to test negative for COVID-19 have begun returning to the aircraft carrier. So far, the TR and the destroyer USS Kidd are the Navy's only deployed ships that have experienced an outbreak.

"Two ships out of 94, I think is a pretty good record," said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. "The Navy has taken a lot of good practices they have learned from the Teddy Roosevelt."

Esper spoke Monday about the pandemic's  effect on military readiness. He suggested things could be far worse.

 "In terms of a 2 million-strong military, we've had fewer than 5,000 persons infected and fewer than 100  have been hospitalized, " he said. "We've remained ahead of the curve at every turn. And I'm very proud of what we've done. 

"At this point, we are in pretty good shape. It's tragic that we lost two service members. But only two is fairly good when you look at how we rank and stack up against our civilian counterparts."

As for what the future holds for the military, he said: "There will be a new normal that we have to adapt to over an extended period of time. At least, until we have a vaccine we're confident in."

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