Pentagon says coronavirus outbreak on carrier doesn't warrant evacuation

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper speaks during a joint news conference with Britain’s Secretary of State of Defence Ben Wallace after their meeting at Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., March 5, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Tuesday it was not time to evacuate a U.S. aircraft carrier reeling from an outbreak of coronavirus, adding that he had not read in detail a letter from the commander of the ship pleading for help.

Reuters reported earlier on Tuesday about a letter from Captain Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the Theodore Roosevelt, calling for removing over 4,000 sailors from the ship and isolating them.

In his interview with CBS News, Esper did not comment directly on Crozier’s proposal, at least in the portions that aired. Asked if it was time to evacuate the carrier, Esper said: “I don’t think we’re at that point.”

“We’re moving a lot of supplies and assistance, medical assistance, out to the carrier in Guam. We’re providing additional medical personnel as they need it,” Esper said, adding the goal was still to contain the virus and that none of the crew were seriously ill.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Tom Hogue

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