USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sailors walk up the brow of the aircraft carrier, April 29. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Jordan E. Gilbert)

NAVAL BASE GUAM - Hundreds of Sailors began the transition from quarantine and isolation to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), April 29, as the ship prepares to return to sea after a bow-to-stern deep cleaning process.

More than 4,000 Sailors who tested negative for COVID-19 have been in quarantine in hotels off base. It will take several days to move all of these Sailors back onboard.

After the ship’s arrival to Guam on March 27, approximately 700 Sailors remained on board to maintain critical ongoing operations and begin the cleaning. Since then, the ship underwent an aggressive, multi-pronged cleaning regimen, which balanced effective decontamination with protecting the ship’s critical systems. Spaces were vacated for seven days – four days longer than the minimum recommended by the Centers for Disease Control – before being thoroughly disinfected. For spaces that were continuously operational, Sailors cleaned the area before leaving it, while the incoming Sailors cleaned it immediately upon arrival.

Meanwhile, Commander 7th Fleet, Joint Region Marianas, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, Naval Base Guam and the government of Guam coordinated to isolate and quarantine the ship’s Sailors in phases, in accordance with recommended Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standards.

“Our mission is to make sure the fighting force in the fleet is ready to go at all times,” said Capt. Maria Young, commanding officer, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. “I appreciated the Sailors’ patience throughout this whole process, as we worked with one another to maintain the health and readiness of the crew and to get the Roosevelt back to sea. We are happy to help.”

To return to the ship, the 4,000 Sailors must have completed their period of quarantine or isolation, and tested negative twice. Sailors will return to the ship in waves, beginning with those responsible for critical services on board as the ship prepares to return to sea. Meanwhile, the 700 Sailors who have been cleaning and running essential services will begin their isolation.

The transition of crews involved significant coordination, to ensure social distancing and maintain the cleanliness of the ship. Portions of the crew were carefully selected to return to the ship to establish a healthy foundation.

“The stay behind crew successfully built a ‘bubble’ around the ship, that can now be turned over to the clean crew,” said Cmdr. Zach Harry, chief engineer aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt. “The crew will now create a boundary to keep the coronavirus out. This clean bubble must now be defended.”

To do this, Sailors will be transported to the ship via buses which will be cleaned in accordance with CDC standards before, between, and after each transit. Ship’s leadership will continue to enforce wearing of PPE and adhering to other COVID-19 prevention protocols.

“The bubble-to-bubble transfer and boundary is extremely important, due to our unique living and working environments on the ship,” said Senior Chief Intelligence Specialist Chanda Clifton. “We have a good chance of success in protecting the crew with continued vigilance.”

With the crew swap, the clean crew can now refocus on their primary jobs and work to get the ship back to sea.

“Without a clean ship and healthy Sailors, we cannot execute the mission,” said Harry. “Our Sailors take pride in what they do and it shows with the effort and long hours spent cleaning our ship for our clean crew. The crew did an extraordinary job.”

Theodore Roosevelt departed its homeport of San Diego, California, on Jan. 17 for a scheduled Indo-Pacific deployment.

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sailors return to the ship, April 29. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Jordan E. Gilbert)

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Sailors walk along the pier at Naval Base Guam as they prepare to return to the aircraft carrier, April 29. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Jordan E. Gilbert)