Navy confirms reports of COVID-19 cases aboard Honolulu-based guided missile destroyer

Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 4:27 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Navy said Thursday that an unspecified number of sailors assigned to a guided missile destroyer based out of Pearl Harbor have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Navy officials say they became aware of the cluster aboard the USS Michael Murphy on Nov. 4.

There are roughly 300 sailors assigned to the ship.

When asked, the Navy wouldn’t confirm how many are infected with the coronavirus.

But NBC News reported Thursday that nearly 25% of the USS Michael Murphy’s roughly 300 sailors had been diagnosed with COVID-19, citing unnamed U.S. military officials.

The USS Michael Murphy is docked at Pearl Harbor while many of its sailors are reportedly ashore on Oahu.

In a statement the Navy said:

“Personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been placed in isolation. Out of an abundance of caution, all close contacts and non-essential crew members are undergoing a two-week self isolation period in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines.”

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he had not yet been briefed on the outbreak and planned to reach out to the Navy for more information.

“I just want to make sure those men and women in service are quarantined at Pearl Harbor and they’re not going out into the larger community,” he said.

“We want to make sure it doesn’t spread to the wider population.”

The Navy would not reveal where the sailors are isolated. Because this is the ship’s home port it’s likely many of their families live on island and in communities off base.

Of all branches of service, the Navy has been one hardest hit by the virus.

As of the end of September, military officials confirmed more than 190 of its ships have experienced a COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s very difficult to operate without bumping shoulders. Squeezing by each other,” said David Hendrickson, a former Army JAG attorney.

He said social distancing on a Navy ship is virtually impossible, making the USS Michael Murphy an environment where they virus could easily spread.

“You have 300 sailors on a ship that’s only 500 feet long. That’s a floating petri dish,” said Hendrickson.

According to NBC military sources the outbreak “has not had any operational impact on the ship or Navy as a whole.” NBC also reported the ship is currently being cleaned and “caretaker crew is on board until more sailors finish their time in quarantine.”

Hendrickson says it’s the command’s responsibility to make sure sailors complete their quarantine. He says violating that order comes with stiff penalties.

“That service member is subject to a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge,” said Hendrickson. “So in the military it’s very black and white if you need to be in quarantine and you’re ordered to be in quarantine you need to abide by it.”

The Department of Health confirms military cases are included in Hawaii’s daily COVID-19 case count.

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