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Navy Attempts Faster Response After Coronavirus Found Aboard USS Kidd

The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd departs San Diego Bay on Feb. 4, 2011.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Joe Kane / US Navy
The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd departs San Diego Bay on Feb. 4, 2011.

Sailors from the USS Kidd remain in San Diego after an outbreak of coronavirus onboard the ship.

The destroyer arrived in San Diego on April 28, about one week after the first members of the crew of 330 tested positive for COVID-19. The ship had been on a counter-drug mission off the coast of South America.

Cmdr. Michael Kaplan was part of the initial Navy medical team flown to the USS Kidd from Jacksonville, Florida. He spoke to KPBS from quarantine in San Diego.

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“It was actually kind of a surreal situation,” he said. “We really didn’t have much time to think about what we were getting into, which is probably a good thing. Not too many people would want to run into a burning building. And that’s probably the best analogy.”

VIDEO: Navy Attempts Faster Response After Virus Found Aboard USS Kidd

He was told about the outbreak April 23, and was immediately flown to El Salvador and then taken by helicopter to the USS Kidd. One sailor had tested positive after being flown to San Antonio. By the time Kaplan’s team, which included himself and another doctor, arrived, roughly 40 sailors were already showing symptoms. The ship’s medical crew had isolated the sailors and ordered additional cleaning throughout the ship. Kaplan’s team brought in enough Abbott Laboratory testing equipment to test the entire crew.

“It took us about three-and-a-half days to get everyone on board, over 300 people, tested, because we realized every minute we had was time we could use to reduce the spread,” Kaplan said.

The USS Kidd is the second reported outbreak onboard a U.S. Navy ship. As with the Navy’s other outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt, the doctors found half who tested positive showed no symptoms.

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“That creates an added challenge. There are a lot of added challenges with this virus that we don’t fully appreciate at this point,” Kaplan said.

The Navy isn’t releasing the exact figure, but the estimate is at least one-third of the crew was diagnosed with the virus. The 15 worst cases were moved to the San Diego-based USS Makin Island, which has a larger a medical section, where they remained isolated from the rest of the crew. The Navy has been criticized for not reacting quickly enough when the USS Roosevelt reported an outbreak in March 22. Within days the USS Kidd was in San Diego, where the ship is now undergoing a deep cleaning.

Navy Attempts Faster Response After Coronavirus Found Aboard USS Kidd
Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.