Navy Captain Brett Crozier Tests Positive for Coronavirus Days After Being Removed Over Leaked Letter: NYT Report

A recently fired Navy captain who was personally ridiculed by President Donald Trump over a letter pleading for help dealing with his coronavirus-stricken vessel has now been diagnosed with COVID-19, The New York Times reported Sunday.

U.S. Navy Captain Brett E. Crozier, who was removed from command of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt this past week, tested positive for coronavirus, according to two Naval Academy classmates who are close with Crozier and his family. The Times report comes just one day after Trump said it was "terrible" that a letter Crozier wrote to military leadership desperately seeking coronavirus help was leaked to the news media. The president said he had no influence on the Navy's decision to remove Crozier, whose four-page letter detailed a worsening coronavirus outbreak among sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.

Crozier started showing symptoms of being infected with the coronavirus prior to his removal from the aircraft carrier Thursday, his Naval Academy peers told the Times.

The Navy declined to comment about Crozier to Newsweek Sunday.

Crozier's letter was first reported on by the San Francisco Chronicle, which described more than 100 people becoming infected with coronavirus after completing a port call in Vietnam in March. Fifteen days after the U.S.S. Roosevelt departed the Da Nang port, three sailors tested positive and marked the first reports of COVID-19 being present on a U.S. military vessel at sea.

The letter, which was dated March 30, had been sent through a non-secure and unclassified email that also went outside the military's chain of command.

Reacting to questions Saturday during the White House's Coronavirus Task Force press briefing, Trump disparaged the recently fired commander.

"I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. This isn't a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that's nuclear-powered," the president said. "The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That's not appropriate. I don't think that's appropriate."

The number of sailors aboard the vessel who have tested positive for coronavirus has since increased to 155, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CNN Sunday morning. He added that more than half of the ship had been tested and there have been no serious enough cases to require hospitalizations.

Esper also told ABC News on Sunday that the firing of Crozier over the leaked letter was "an issue of trust and confidence in the captain of the ship."

Crozier's firing was derided by many, including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden who told ABC News Sunday: "I think he should have a commendation rather than be fired. I think it's close to criminal the way they're dealing with this guy."

Thomas Modly, the acting Navy secretary, announced last Thursday that Crozier will be reassigned while he faces investigation into whether he should receive disciplinary action.

navy captain brett crozier coronavirus
A recently fired Navy captain who was personally ridiculed by President Donald Trump over a letter pleading for help dealing with his coronavirus-stricken vessel has now been diagnosed with COVID-19, The New York Times reported Sunday. DAN KITWOOD / Staff/Getty Images
Navy Captain Brett Crozier Tests Positive for Coronavirus Days After Being Removed Over Leaked Letter: NYT Report | News