Navy Secretary outlines COVID policy during first visit to San Diego
The Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro on Monday said the Navy won’t immediately begin the process of kicking out sailors or contractors who aren’t vaccinated at the deadline, but those who aren’t vaccinated will face a decision.
The Navy has the highest vaccination rate of any of the services, roughly 99% of sailors have had at least one shot, ahead of the Nov. 28 deadline for all active-duty Navy and Marines to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“I think we're well on track to get those numbers as close to 100% as possible,” Del Toro said, during a visit to San Diego Monday. "And we're going to work with those who decide not to get vaccinated for whatever reason. We're going to counsel them. We're going to talk to them. We're going to give them opportunities to sort of get the vaccination.”
Roughly 95% of Marines have been vaccinated.
“It's a slightly younger force is what it is, right,” Del Toro said. “And so the Marine Corps has a much younger population in their early years, essentially. So it's just a matter of convincing them and having them understand that the vaccines are safe.”
The White House has pushed back the deadline for private contractors who become vaccinated. Federal contractors, such as shipyard workers have to be vaccinated by Jan. 4. The Marine Corps officials have declared any Marine without an exemption, who misses the deadline, will be removed from the Corps. Del Toro said the Navy is going to look at cases individually.
“We're going to work this in a very mature way, in a very responsible way,” he said. “I care about the people who serve in the Department of the Navy. This isn't about blame or anything like that. We're trying to make everybody understand that taking the vaccination is the right, safe thing to do for our combat readiness across the Department of the Navy.”
But ultimately, they will have to comply.
“At some point in time, if they just aren't going to get vaccinated, then they're going to have to decide whether they want to stay in the Department of the Navy or not.”
This was Del Toro’s first visit to the city as Navy Secretary. He said he paid surprise visits to several Navy ships in port, concentrating on fire safety, as the Navy continues to grapple with the fallout from the 2020 alleged arson fire on board the USS Bonhomme Richard.
“There's a lot of training issues that were brought to light,” he said. “There were a lot of material issues that were brought to light as well, too. It's my job now to basically find the resources and the mechanisms necessary to correct those deficiencies moving forward so that they don't happen again.”
Del Toro spoke Monday before the San Diego Military Advisory Council. Saturday, he was at the christening of the USS Harvey Milk, which was built in San Diego. The oiler is dedicated to the Gay Civil Rights advocate and slain San Francisco city councilman, who was also a Navy vet.