The U.S. Navy said on Wednesday it is launching a broader inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, effectively delaying its recommendation to reinstate Captain Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the warship.
"After carefully reviewing the preliminary inquiry into the events surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, provided me with his recommendations. Following our discussion, I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review," acting Navy Secretary James McPherson said in a statement.
"Therefore, I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation. This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt," McPherson said.
The new inquiry is expected to be led by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke who will have until May 27 to complete it, according to a CNN report.
Also on Wednesday, sailors from the Roosevelt began returning to the aircraft carrier for the first time since they were moved ashore because of COVID-19 , said the report.
The aircraft carrier had 940 active coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, compared with 955 on Monday, reflecting an increase in the number of sailors who have recovered, said the report.
U.S. Navy on Friday recommended the reinstatement of Crozier's command of the warship following a week-long investigation but Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at the time that he had more questions about the investigation and could not yet make a decision, according to local media reports.
The Navy opened that investigation on April 1, two days after Crozier wrote a memo pleading for a faster and more thorough response to the growing outbreak on the Theodore Roosevelt diverted to port in Guam.
On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by then-Navy Secretary Thomas Modly who resigned the following week after calling Crozier "too naive or too stupid" while addressing the aircraft carrier's crew.
At the time when Crozier wrote the memo, about 70 crew members had tested positive for COVID-19. The Navy now has tested all of near 5,000 crew members aboard the warship.