Days after he was removed from his position as commanding officer of a Navy aircraft carrier, Capt. Brett Crozier has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus illness he warned was spreading rampantly on his ship.
Crozier tested positive for COVID-19 after exhibiting symptoms before he was removed from the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, The New York Times reported Sunday. The paper cited two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s who are familiar with the situation.
Navy officials did not immediately respond to questions about the officer’s condition.
Crozier was recently relieved of command after a letter he wrote to Navy leaders was leaked to the media. In his letter, he pleaded with Navy leaders to evacuate his carrier to help slow the spread of COVID-19 among the crew.
“Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in a letter that was later published by the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
Top Navy leaders first told reporters Wednesday that, while they wished the letter hadn’t made its way to the press, unless Crozier was found to have leaked it, he was not out of line in speaking up about the situation on the ship.
About 24 hours later, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly reversed course and announced that Crozier had been relieved of command. That was despite Modly saying it was not known whether Crozier had, in fact, leaked the letter to the media.
Modly said Crozier had copied people outside of his chain of command when emailing the candid letter. The acting Navy secretary said the captain caused unnecessary panic on and off the ship,and, for that reason, Modly said, he lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to lead.
David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, reported this weekend that Modly told a colleague ahead of the relief that President Donald Trump wanted Crozier fired. Modly told reporters Thursday he faced no outside pressure, including from the White House, on the decision to remove Crozier from his position as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.
Since Crozier’s letter was made public, the Navy has been working to move thousands of sailors off the carrier and into hotel rooms and other locations on Guam while the ship is cleaned and disinfected.
Modly said Thursday that 114 members of the Roosevelt’s crew had tested positive for COVID-19. As of Friday, the Navy had 372 coronavirus cases among uniformed personnel. That amounted to nearly 40% of the military’s 978 cases at the time.
In his letter, Crozier warned that the number of cases on the ship was likely to get much higher, citing tight living quarters, shared restrooms, and food that was prepared by people who’d been exposed to the virus.
COVID-19 has caused a global health crisis as cases worldwide have surged past 1 million, killing more than 65,000 people.