The USS Kidd prepares to dock at Naval Base San Diego on Tuesday. Navy photo

A Everett, WA-based destroyer experiencing a coronavirus outbreak docked at Naval Base San Diego on Tuesday so that sailors could be treated and the ship disinfected.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd was conducting counter-drug operations off the Pacific coast of South America last week when sailors began exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Navy.

One sailor was evacuated to the mainland United States on April 22 after experiencing shortness of breath. The amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island was directed to rendezvous with the Kidd, transferring eight medical personnel from its medical facility — along with an intensive care unit, ventilators and additional testing capacity — to begin testing sailors for COVID-19 the following day.

As Navy leaders solidified plans to return the ship to port, sailors who warranted closer observation were transported from Kidd to Makin Island out of an abundance of caution. An additional sailor was medically evacuated to the United States. Meanwhile, the ship’s crew began intensive cleaning efforts.

While in San Diego, the ship will undergo a strategic deep-cleaning that balances decontamination with preventing damage to the ship’s critical systems, Navy officials said. The cleaning process begins with spaces being vacated for seven days — four days longer than the minimum recommended by the CDC. The process is expected to take approximately two weeks, at which time the confirmed healthy sailors will return to the ship, and the off-going sailors will begin their quarantine.

As of Monday, 47 sailors out of the crew of 300 have tested positive for COVID- 19, according to the Navy. Two sailors have been flown ashore to the United States and another 15 were moved to the San Diego-based ship Makin Island.

“Sailors have called San Diego home for many years, and we’re especially thankful for that relationship now,” said Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces. “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.”

All sailors will be isolated off-ship with twice-daily medical screenings. Crew who have tested negative will enter quarantine for a period of observation, to include daily visits from military health professionals to monitor for symptoms.

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 CDC’s guidance.

“San Diego may not be USS Kidd’s home port, but we are definitely being made to feel at home,” said the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Nathan Wemett.

The Navy is providing a resiliency counselor, team of chaplains, and psychologist for sailors in isolation and quarantine. It 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 symptoms to help prevent spread of the virus — an important lesson the Navy learned from USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors who were quarantined in Guam, a Navy statement said.

Many sailors on that ship who were screened for quarantine were asymptomatic, and several initially tested negative. Many later developed symptoms, however, and 955 sailors on that ship eventually tested positive for COVID-19, the Navy said.

The carrier has been docked in Guam for the past month.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. April 28, 2020

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.