Navy Struggles With Coronavirus in Trying to Keep Ships Active

Sailors gathered into crowded space after symptoms detected

The coronavirus provides unique challenges for the US Navy, and particularly submarines and destroyers, where a large number of sailors are confined into compacted areas, just the sort of conditions people are being told to avoid.

The Navy has to be more careful about that after the fiasco this weekend on the USS Boxer. After discovering a sailor infected with the virus, the ship’s leaders ordered dozens of sailors and officers into a very cramped room to brief them. This forced 80 crew into a compact space well below CDC guidelines, risking mass exposure.

In these sorts of close conditions, one infected sailor could quickly become an entire shipload in very little time. The Navy is just starting to have the ability to engage in ship-board testing for the virus, and until that capacity is ubiquitous, it remains possible people will be infected but not tested.

Officials say social distancing is ongoing “to the maximum extent possible,” but in practice that’s not much on a submarine or other smaller ships. Keeping those ships at sea means the danger for exposure grows substantially.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of