Esper admits he hasn’t read letter from aircraft carrier requesting coronavirus help

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he has yet to read a letter “in detail” sent by the captain of a US aircraft carrier docked in Guam imploring the Pentagon to help it contain the spread of the coronavirus among the crew.

“Well, I have not had a chance to read that letter, read it in detail,” Esper revealed during an interview Tuesday on CBS News. “Again, I’m going to rely on the Navy chain of command to go out there to assess the situation and to make sure they provide the captain and the crew all the support they need to get the sailors healthy and get the ship back at sea.”

Capt. Brett Crozier sent a memo to the Navy on Monday asking for help in responding to an outbreak among the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, urging “decisive action is required now” to comply with guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “prevent tragic outcomes.”

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in the letter obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. “If we do not act now, we are failing to take care of our most trusted asset – our Sailors.”

Anchor Nora O’Donnell asked Esper about the grim prediction. “Well, nobody of course needs to die at this point in time,” Esper said. “We’re not at war. Priority number one is taking care of our service members and their families.”

He went on to say he didn’t “think we’re at the point” of evacuating the ship and said additional medical personnel were being sent to the ship docked in Guam.

Esper also said they are trying to contain the virus and employing testing kits to determine how many members of the 4,000 person crew are infected.

Crozier called on the Navy to remove the crew from the ship and put them into 14-day quarantines.

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