As part of the Navy's aggressive response to the COVID-19 outbreak aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd, the ship arrived at Naval Base San Diego on April 28 to receive medical care for its sailors and to clean and disinfect the ship.
"Sailors have called San Diego home for many years, and we're especially thankful for that relationship now," Navy Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said. "Taking care of our sailors and cleaning this ship is a team effort, and we're fortunate that the partnership between the Navy and the city of San Diego is allowing us to focus on that mission."
USS Kidd was at sea participating in counter-narcotics operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, when several sailors began exhibiting influenza-like illness symptoms. One sailor was medically evacuated to the United States on April 22 after experiencing shortness of breath.
U.S. Pacific Fleet redirected the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island — with its robust medical facility that includes an intensive care unit, ventilators, and additional testing capability — to rendezvous with the Kidd. On April 23, eight medical personnel boarded the Kidd with an Abbott machine to begin testing the crew for COVID-19.
USS Kidd's executive officer, Navy Cmdr. Matt Noland, released a letter via social media to friends and family April 24. In it, Noland wrote, "The Navy pulled out all the stops — specialist doctors have already arrived from the United States to test and help care for our shipmates."
As Navy leadership solidified plans to return the ship to port, sailors who warranted closer observation were transported to Makin Island, out of caution for their health and the health of the sailors still aboard, while an additional sailor was medically evacuated to the United States. Meanwhile, the ship's crew began intensive cleaning efforts while still underway.
All sailors will be isolated off-ship with medical screenings conducted twice a day. Crew members who have tested negative will enter a period of quarantine to be monitored by military health professionals for symptoms. Finally, a small contingent of negative tested sailors will remain on the ship for essential services and deep-cleaning. These sailors will be outfitted with appropriate personal protective equipment, and will maintain social distancing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance.
"San Diego may not be USS Kidd's home port, but we are definitely being made to feel at home," Navy Cmdr. Nathan Wemett, the ship's commanding officer, said. "I am personally grateful to know that we have such a strong bond with our Navy communities. It's the strength of those bonds that helps us work together in challenging situations."
In addition to caring for the sailors' physical health, the Navy is providing a resilience counselor and a team of chaplains and psychologists to care for the mental and spiritual health of the sailors in isolation and quarantine. The Navy has also established a 24-hour roving patrol to ensure that sailors who are sequestered off-ship are adhering to all public health and safety policies.
USS Kidd sailors have been instructed to immediately report any influenza-like illness symptoms to help prevent spread of the virus — an important lesson the Navy learned from USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors who were quarantined in Guam. Sailors who were screened for quarantine were asymptomatic, with several initially testing negative. Upon later developing symptoms, those sailors were able to be isolated and treated appropriately.
While in San Diego, the ship will undergo a strategic deep-cleaning regimen that balances decontamination while preventing damage to the ship's critical systems. The cleaning process begins with spaces being vacated for seven days — four days longer than the minimum recommended by the CDC. The ship will be cleaned room by room, with access to each space restricted. The process is expected to take about two weeks, at which time the confirmed healthy sailors will return to the ship, and the off-going sailors will begin their quarantine.