USS Russell (DDG 59) and USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) steam in formation during dual carrier operations with the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups, June 23. (U.S. Navy/MCSN Drace Wilson)

WASHINGTON - Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday sent a message to the fleet stressing the importance of remaining vigilant in the long-term battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19), June 30.

Below is the text of CNO’s message:

“As we head into a well-deserved holiday weekend celebrating our nation’s independence, I want to convey how proud I am of our collective resilience and grit during this challenging time, and stress the importance of remaining vigilant in our long-term battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Together, we have impressively adapted and maintained our edge in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Sustaining that hard-earned readiness is now dependent on each of us holding steadfast to the procedures, protocols and policies that keep COVID out of our commands. Especially this weekend, each of us will be faced with temptations to cut corners and return to the ‘old normal.’

Do not do it. The health and safety of our Sailors and families is my number one priority. Do not compromise yourself, your family or your friends and become the source of COVID-19 at your command. We must protect family and shipmates from this virus with the same intensity that we protect them from any adversary, with focus and conviction. We will remain socially distant, wash hands, wear face coverings, and avoid large groups.

COVID is an insidious enemy, with roughly 35% of those acquiring COVID remaining asymptomatic. A single, healthy-feeling individual can unwittingly spread the disease to many others. COVID does not care how long it has been since you shook a hand, went to a bar, or hugged your grandparents. It can and will continue to spread with reckless abandon unless we stay united in defensive action. Together, we will rigorously maintain health protection measures to protect our Navy family and assure mission success even when it may appear the general public may be relaxing them.

An additional important layer of defense against this disease, given that the only way to uncover asymptomatic individuals is through testing, is the Surveillance Sentinel Testing (SST) that NAVADMIN 178/20 puts in place. SST tests a small percentage of our force routinely to help break the transmission of COVID-19, increase awareness across our force and provide greater health protection mission assurance.

I am extremely proud of the readiness we’ve maintained during these past few challenging months. More than one-third of the Navy is currently forward deployed, spending longer times at-sea with fewer port visits. These units, and many other ongoing examples of prioritizing service and country above self, demonstrate what makes us strong and a great Navy. My deep and sustained thanks as we continue to define and operate in this ‘new normal.’”