U.S. Navy sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt are being transferred to hotels in Tumon.
The military confirmed they are starting with a small group at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort before going to the Dusit Thani Guam Resort.
Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes told The Guam Daily Post on Thursday that the initial transfer includes 180 to 500 sailors and the groups will continue to be moved over the next several days.
“This is something that is unprecedented,” said Rhodes. “Coincidentally, we had seven hotels that went offline (Wednesday) where they temporary closed due to the lack of visitors coming in with the suspension of flights. I’ve been working with those seven hotels to see who would participate.”
She said the hotels must have a capacity of 300 to 400 rooms within a single tower.
“Every hotel will be outfitted with a team of both Guam Army National Guard, Department of Defense and the different branches of the military who will be supporting the hotels and leading these efforts,” she said. “All of the services with food and beverage and housekeeping, all of the supply management and even manning the areas from the floors all the way to front desk, as well as creating an incident command center – all of that will be run by the Department of Defense in cooperation with the facility.”
Rhodes said only the back-house operations of the hotels that include the operator service and facilities maintenance will be working.
“Even outside food won’t be allowed. This is very strict. They will be constraint to the room. They will receive all their meals and beverages directly to the room without any contact with hotel staff. That is all coordinated with the military. There will be no guest,” she said. “We are going to have all the perimeters enforced with military personnel.”
WATCH: Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association President Mary Rhodes speaks with The Guam Daily Post about plans to relocate sailors from the USS Theodore Roosevelt into local hotels.
Both Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Joint Region Marianas Rear Adm. John Menoni said no sailors will be allowed off base unless they’ve tested negative for COVID-19.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly spoke with Pentagon reporters and said the Roosevelt has had 93 positive tests, with 86 of those service members exhibiting symptoms and seven having no symptoms. So far, 593 have tested negative, and none have been hospitalized.
He said 1,273 crew members have been tested so far but some of the results have not come back yet.
"We already have nearly 1,000 personnel off the ship right now and in the next couple of days, we expect to have another 2,700 of them off the ship," Modly said.
He said they will not remove all of the sailors from the ship, as some sailors must stay on board to maintain ship operations.
"Just because it's big and it floats and it has a lot of people on it, the comparison of the TR to a cruise ship pretty much ends there. This ship has weapons on it. It has munitions on it. It has expensive aircraft and has a nuclear power plant. It requires a certain number of people on that ship to maintain the safety and security of the ship," Modly stated.
Menoni said by getting more sailors off the ship, they are able to implement social distancing on board with the remaining crew members required to maintain the ship.
During a press conference held at Adelup at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Menoni said they would begin moving the sailors over the next 12 to 24 hours, and reiterated a series of safeguards being put in place, on top of the required negative test results.
It’s been noted, however, that some people who initially tested negative for the virus can test positive days later. During the press conference, Menoni was asked about that happening in the current situation. He responded: “That’s the $64 million question.”
“I can’t predict the future,” he said, adding that's why the Navy has various safeguards in place, including daily medical checkups by military medical personnel of the sailors.
In response to questions about ensuring sailors follow the protocol, he said the sailors must remain in their assigned rooms for the duration of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period “by lawful order of their military command and in full support of the governor’s executive order.”
“Military leadership will be present throughout the lodging to ensure sailors adhere to quarantine protocols and remain in their rooms,” he said. “This will be an entirely military-run operation with no direct contact between the TR sailors and their hotel staff.
“There is nobody who is going to violate an order on my watch and get away with it."
Menoni also thanked the people of Guam for supporting the sailors.
“The Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group, Joint Region Marianas and your Navy are extremely thankful of the overwhelming support to the people of Guam in our fight against COVID-19,” he said.
As local business and government officials work with military officials to assist the Theodore Roosevelt, Rhodes said the goal is to designate up to 4,000 rooms.
Late Thursday afternoon, Rhodes said they're finalizing details on accommodations. The cost will be based on the federal per diem rates and costs associated with additional services for laundry, sanitation, trash, biohazard removal and disposal, and more.
Additionally, certain rooms will be designated for the sailors to receive mail and care packages.
“We are really hoping the process works and as much as possible we are going to get a negative tested group that will remain negative throughout their entire stay.”