A U.S. guided missile destroyer ship has broken the record for the longest consecutive number of days at sea for a military surface vessel, the Navy said Tuesday, underscoring the effects of restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The USS Stout reached 208 days at sea Sept. 26, spending nearly seven months in the Middle East and the North Africa area, known as the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The previous record of 207 days, held by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS San Jacinto, was also set this year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the Navy to cancel port visits to prevent sailors from being exposed while ashore.
Earlier this year, more than 1,000 sailors were infected with Covid-19 on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. One sailor died and the aircraft carrier was sidelined in Guam for weeks.
In an exclusive interview last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said the Navy has learned from the Roosevelt incident and has been successfully preventing transmission on ships, but he acknowledged changes, like fewer port visits and longer time at sea, have put more stress on the sailors and hurt their quality of life during deployment.
“We have to have ships stay at sea another month or so longer as they do their training and instead of taking leave right after training before deployment, they roll right into deployment,” he said.
“We’re not pulling to port as frequently as we had before,” in order to avoid sailors being exposed to Covid-19, Gilday said. Instead, the ships do “stand-down days,” in which as many sailors as possible are given a day off.