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Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved the captain of nuclear aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after he sent a letter to officials pleading for help when members of his crew contracted the coronavirus.

The big picture: Capt. Brett Crozier's four-page letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week, quickly garnering national attention after Crozier pleaded for more resources and space to quarantine crew members offshore.

Modly said at a press conference that Crozier went outside the chain of command and "at no time relayed" the levels of alarm that he wrote in his letter:

  • "I could reach no other conclusion that Capt. Crozier had allowed the complexity of his challenge with the COVID breakout on the ship to overwhelm his ability to act professionally, when acting professionally was what was needed most at the time."
  • “I have no information nor am I trying to suggest he leaked the letter. ... What I will say. He sent it out pretty broadly and in sending it out pretty broadly he did not take care to ensure it couldn’t be leaked.”

Background: By Saturday, nearly 150 of the nearly 5,000 crew members had tested positive for the coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

  • 1,000 people have left the ship to be put in isolation, and 2,700 more are expected to leave this week. Some crew members will stay behind to ensure the safety of weapons onboard.

What they're saying: House Armed Services Committee Leadership released a statement Thursday, saying the decision to relieve Crozier of his command was "an overreaction."

"The COVID pandemic presents a set of new challenges and there is much we still do not know. Captain Crozier was justifiably concerned about the health and safety of his crew, but he did not handle the immense pressure appropriately. However, relieving him of his command is an overreaction."

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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