A Coast Guard member assigned to the Honolulu-based cutter Midgett tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Chief Sara Muir, deputy public affairs officer for District 14, said today.
The individual was not aboard the cutter and had been self-isolating since March 24, Muir said.
“As far as I know, the person is doing well,” she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “We haven’t had any reports otherwise, and we don’t have any reports of illness or symptoms on the ship.”
The afflicted member had “a few minutes interaction with base personnel last week after coming off the ship and then went home,” Muir said.
The 418-foot cutter, with a crew of about 150, is “taking all available precautions and working to identify any individuals who came into contact with this member” per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, she said. “We are informing them of the possible exposure to ensure screening and prevent further spread.”
The ship, which had been out on a “regional patrol,” pulled into port at the Coast Guard’s Honolulu base at about 11:30 a.m. today. The Coast Guard worked with the state of Hawaii to allow the ship to come back to port.
Muir said her understanding is that the crew, working with a team from Tripler Army Medical Center, will be screened “to determine if there are any concerns and if anyone needs COVID-19 testing or any kind of isolation or self-quarantine, and then they are tracing back to see if any of that is necessary with the base personnel.”
One thing not known yet “is where they might have been exposed. Obviously, there’s interest in that as well,” Muir said. She added that “they are doing the investigation now to determine what the timeline was and trace backwards.”
The $670 million cutter, which was commissioned in Honolulu in August, had been at sea on a missions in the Hawaii and Oceania areas, Muir said.
The mission was paused and the Midgett anchored overnight off Honolulu Harbor “while all applicable federal and state notifications were made and steps were taken to return to Base Honolulu for further actions in line with CDC guidelines,” Muir said.
In a rare double commissioning in August, the Midgett and another national security cutter, Kimball, were ceremoniously brought to life and officially entered service in Honolulu.
National security cutters are the largest and most technologically advanced ships in the Coast Guard fleet.
The two cutters, with the addition of other vessels in the region, are expected to extend the reach of the wide-ranging capabilities of the Coast Guard — which has been called on to have a greater role in the U.S. “Free and Open Indo- Pacific” campaign.
The United States is worried about China upending the free-flow of commerce that has been the U.S. guiding principle since the end of World War II.
National security cutters have a top speed of more than 32 mph, a range of 12,000 nautical miles and can carry a crew of up to 150. A big 57mm gun juts off the bow. The Coast Guard has called them “game changers.”
Even before it was officially in service, and while on the way to Honolulu, the Midgett made drug busts in the Eastern Pacific on July 25 and 31 that netted more than 6,700 pounds of cocaine worth more than $89 million.
The Coast Guard said it expects the Hawaii cutters to deploy as far as the Bering Sea and South Pacific.