Fired Navy captain reportedly tests positive for coronavirus

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Captain Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship’s flight deck in the eastern Pacific Ocean December 19, 2019.

Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh | US Navy

Capt. Brett Crozier, the now-fired Navy captain who wrote a letter asking for help dealing with a coronavirus outbreak on his ship, has tested positive for COVID-19, The New York Times reported Sunday. 

The Times’ report cited two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier who have a relationship with the officer and his family. 

Crozier had been in command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt until this week, when he was relieved of his duty after he wrote a letter to military leadership to request assistance in responding to a COVID-19 outbreak on the vessel. 

The letter, which leaked to the media, was sent outside the chain of command and via nonsecure unclassified email. 

Crozier began to show symptoms of COVID-19 before he was removed from the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, The Times reported. He is being quarantined on Naval Base Guam, The Times reported. 

In announcing the decision to remove Crozier from his command, Thomas Modly, acting Secretary of the Navy, said the letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily.” 

“The captain’s actions made his sailors, their families, and many in the public believe that his letter was the only reason help from our larger Navy family was forthcoming, which was hardly the case,” Modly said Thursday at the Pentagon. 

President Donald Trump said Saturday he thought Crozier’s actions were “terrible.”

“The letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Trump said. 

There were more than 100 people infected with COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt at the time of Crozier’s letter, which was dated March 30 and first reported on by The San Francisco Chronicle. There more than 4,000 crew members on board on the ship. 

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” Crozier wrote in the letter. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that 155 sailors have now tested positive for COVID-19.

“Those are all mild and moderate. There have been no hospitalizations whatsoever,” said Esper.

“There is an investigation ongoing” into Crozier’s actions, Esper said. “But at this point in time, Secretary Modly did not have faith and confidence”  that Crozier could continue serving as captain.

Crozier received applause from sailors on the Roosevelt as he left the ship, a videos posted online showed.  

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday criticized the response to Crozier’s letter. 

“I think it’s close to criminal the way they’re dealing with this guy,” Biden told ABC’s This Week. “I think he should have a commendation rather than be fired.”

CNBC’s Spencer Kimball and Amanda Macias contributed to this report. 

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