The U.S. Navy relieved aircraft carrier Captain Brett Crozier of his command after the captain sent a letter to superiors urging them to take action to contain a Wuhan coronavirus outbreak on the ship.
“He sent [the letter] out pretty broadly and in sending it out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked and that’s part of his responsibility,” acting U.S. Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said at a Thursday press conference. “It raised alarm bells unnecessarily.”
Crozier took command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in November 2019. The ship has a crew of over 4,000 sailors, more than 100 of whom had tested positive for coronavirus as of Friday morning. The ship is currently docked in Guam.
Footage of Crozier leaving the ship showed the sailors on board applauding and cheering the captain.
In the letter, Crozier urged his superiors to begin taking sailors off of the vessel in order to prevent the further transmission of the virus.
“Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not [social distancing],” Crozier wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the San Fransisco Chronicle. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.”
Crozier continued, “Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure. . . . This is a necessary risk.”
Modly added, “I have no information, nor am I trying to suggest that he leaked the information.”
Senator Mark Warner (D., Va.) criticized the Navy’s decision, saying Crozier was “just trying to do what’s best for his crew.” President Trump also expressed his disapproval.
“I don’t agree with that at all. Not at all. Not even a little bit,” Trump said.