'Taking advantage of lessons learned': U.S. Navy aircraft carrier sails past Victoria post-quarantine
The USS Nimitz supercarrier in the Juan de Fuca Strait near Victoria, B.C. in 2014. (Chad Hipolito/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
VICTORIA -- One of the largest warships in the world passed through Canadian waters south of Victoria on Monday.
The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz – its sailors fresh out of coronavirus quarantine – spent several hours on the Canadian side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca before heading for open seas Monday night.
The U.S. Navy says the supercarrier's crew was "taking advantage of lessons learned" after completing a 27-day COVID-19 quarantine period prior to departing Bremerton, Wash., bound for pre-deployment training off San Diego.
The newly adopted quarantine measures, which will include ongoing testing for all sailors and air crew aboard, are part of an effort to avoid the same fate as fellow aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and Washington-based destroyer USS Kidd.
The Roosevelt has been sidelined in Guam for a month with a coronavirus outbreak that, by Monday, had infected 955 sailors and killed one. The USS Kidd, meanwhile, has 47 sailors who have tested positive for the virus and more cases are expected as testing continues, according to the U.S. Navy.
"Dealing with the challenges of the COVID pandemic has been difficult, so I’m very pleased that our mitigation efforts have put us in a position to get underway,” said the Nimitz's commanding officer Capt. Max Clark on Monday.
“We are all looking forward to training and operating again. I give the crew all the credit. From the beginning, they have done all that I and Navy leadership have asked them to do – face coverings, social distancing, continuous ship sanitization, testing and periods of quarantine."
The Nimitz will be joined by naval units from across the Pacific region, including EA-18 Growler aircraft from Whidbey Island, Wash., and at least one destroyer from Everett, Wash., the USS Ralph Johnson, which sailed past Victoria on April 13.
Guided-missile cruisers and destroyers from California and Hawaii are also scheduled to join the carrier strike group, as are California-based aircraft.
The U.S. Navy says the pre-deployment training is meant to test the strike group's ability to carry out sustained combat operations from the sea.
The Nimitz visited Victoria in 2014 while conducting sea trials and testing at the Canadian military's experimental range in Nanoose Bay.
At 333 metres long, 77 metres wide and approximately 23 storeys tall, the Nimitz carries about 5,000 sailors and air crew.