WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday defended the firing of an aircraft carrier commander who sought help for sailors during an outbreak as a matter of holding leaders “accountable.” He also said the matter was under review.
In two TV interviews, Esper said acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly made a “very tough decision” on Thursday to oust Capt. Brett Crozier of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was docked in Guam, and that he supported the decision.
“It was based on his view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain, based on his actions. It was supported by Navy leadership,” Esper said.
Also Sunday, the New York Times reported that Crozier has tested positive for the virus, according to two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier's who are close to him and his family.
No test data on health workers
Experts and health officials who are trying to plan a response to the coronavirus outbreak are missing a critical piece of information – the number of health care workers who have tested positive for the disease.
Washington state faced the first major outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation, but health officials have not kept track of how many doctors and nurses have the disease. New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, also lacks infection figures for medical staff, according to Jill Montag, spokeswoman with the New York State Department of Health.
That information can help save lives, said Dr. Grete Porteous, an anesthesiologist in Seattle who has worked on health care emergency preparedness and crisis management. It previously helped reduce risks to medical personnel during the much smaller SARS outbreak of 2003-04, she said.
Mayor protests beach opening
A small coastal city in Georgia that thrives on tourism closed its beach, fearing carefree crowds of teenagers and college students posed too great a risk for spreading the new coronavirus. Two weeks later, the state's governor has reversed that decision, saying people weathering the outbreak need fresh air and exercise.
Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions, sworn in barely three months ago, has taken on Gov. Brian Kemp after state officials on Friday reopened the beach in this community of 3,100 people east of Savannah. The beach typically operates with city-funded lifeguards, police patrols and trash cleanup.
Sessions has called Kemp's order a “reckless mandate.” Kemp noted Sunday on Twitter that state law enforcement officers were monitoring beaches at Tybee Island and elsewhere to ensure crowds weren't gathering, and that beach traffic appeared sparse. Kemp said “beach gear and parties are prohibited.”
Silent mourning for mine victims
A planned public gathering was shelved on the 10th anniversary of the worst U.S. mining disaster in decades. Heartfelt speeches gave way Sunday to silent remembrances and individual prayers for the 29 men who died at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia.
The coronavirus pandemic prompted the decision weeks ago to cancel the event. Instead, mourners were allowed to lay wreaths from dusk to dawn at a memorial site in Whitesville, not far from the mine.
Tommy Davis was going regardless. Davis was working at the mine on April 5, 2010. He lost a son, brother and a nephew.
“This corona is just what it is. It's life,” said Davis, who is now retired. “I'll be there to pay my respects and do my remembering and set out my flowers as I usually do. I'm doing my normal thing. I don't change nothing up regardless of what's going on in the world around us.”
Home violence surging: UN
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday night that there has been “a horrifying global surge in domestic violence” as fear of the coronavirus has grown along with its social and economic consequences.
“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes,” Gutteres said. He said that in some countries, which he didn't name, “the number of women calling support services has doubled.”