ORANGE PARK, Fla. – An Orange Park father speaking out because his son is one of the crew members of the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt.
The Roosevelt is sidelined in port at Guam as members of the crew are tested for the coronavirus and moved ashore. The outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier led to the controversial relieving of the captain and the subsequent acting secretary of the Navy.
E-4 Christopher Blakewood, who graduated from Orange Park High School, is one of the sailors who tested positive for COVID-19, according to his parents. His father, Mark Blakewood, told News4Jax on Wednesday that his son, who enlisted in 2018 and is on his first deployment, was on land in a gymnasium in Guam, filled with cots, where the sailors who tested positive for COVID-19 are being housed.
“My son slept on the bottom bunk, and the bunk right above him, basically, that sailor had tested positive seven days earlier before he was even removed from the ship, my son Chris was removed from the ship. So that’s not immediate action in my opinion,” Mark Blakewood said.
The Blakewood family has lived through the surreal experience of watching the drama unfold aboard the Roosevelt. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who resigned Tuesday, had created a combustible controversy by firing the Roosevelt’s skipper, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, last week, saying Crozier had shown “extremely poor judgment” in widely distributing by email a letter calling for urgent help with the COVID-19 outbreak aboard his ship. Modly then flew to the ship, at port in Guam, and delivered a speech to the crew Sunday in which he lambasted Crozier, saying he was either “too naive or too stupid” to be in charge of an aircraft carrier.
“He was one of the ones that really felt like the captain had their back. That’s probably 90% view of the crew. That the captain knew of the career consequences he put himself in, but he put his career behind the safety of the men and women serving on the carrier,” Mark Blakewood said.
As of Tuesday, the Navy said 79% of the Roosevelt crew had been tested for the coronavirus, and 230 of them were positive. About 2,000 of the 4,865 crew members had been taken off the ship. But Mark Blakewood said his son told him the number of cases aboard is higher than what’s being reported.
Mark Blakewood also said he’s hoping his son recovers soon, along with all his crewmates.
“Scary, I guess, would be the right word. He’s obviously a brave sailor, but the unknown factor of this virus -- and certainly all of us stayed at home -- but the unknown factor when you’re on a ship with 5,000 sailors,” Mark Blakewood said.
E-4 Christopher Blakewood has been in regular touch with his parents. In fact, he was speaking with his mother on the phone in another room while his father spoke with News4Jax. E-4 Christopher Blakewood’s parents told News4Jax that he said 96 new crew members tested positive in the most recent notice he got concerning cases on the ship.