By Hu Guotai
Unverified news about the US ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) being hit by the novel coronavirus is circulating online, which has made people worried, especially after the virus outbreak in the US nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt that killed at least one crewmember.
Despite the wide spread speculation, the US military has yet to make any announcement and no media reports about what may have happened in the submarine can be found.
Was there infection of COVID-19 onboard the “big black fish”? If so, are US authorities trying to cover it up?
“People need the truth,” a Twitter user named Thomas Wade wrote on social media. “Why can’t I find any English information about USS Tennessee (SSBN-734) recently? Are there something dangerous or they had confirmed cases of COVID-19?”
US officials have claimed that sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt picked up the virus at a port call in Da Nang early last March. However, this may not be the case. The fact is that during the time the Roosevelt was in port, there were only 16 reported cases of COVID-19 in Vietnam, all well to the north of the capital of Hanoi, which is far away from Da Nang.
As for the USS Tennessee, if the ship has COVID-19 and had to return immediately to bay, then a question remains, that is, what is the source of the infection?
Public information about the USS Tennessee show that its crew returned to its homeport at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, following a strategic deterrence patrol on January 11, 2020.
Another public appearance happened on March 6, 2020, when the submarine changed its command. In other words, the submarine was onshore on the date when the community transmission of the virus in the US had begun. It also means that infection in the submarine is likely. What is unusual is that there is barely any other recent information about the submarine, either on search engines or on social media.
Is there a black hand blocking the information flow?
A Twitter user pointed out that no information about coronavirus on the USS Tennessee could be found on Google anymore. “All deleted. If there is a country who has the capacity and motif to do it, US is the No. 1 suspect,” the user noted.
Is it fake news? Or did Google delete all the information? It remains unproven.
The Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarine is a strategic arm of the US military. It carries “low-yield” nuclear warheads, a small and new nuclear weapon. It is normal that there is classified information due to security concerns. However,the issue of COVID-19 is a humanitarian one. Transparency and the timely release of data are crucial for infectious disease response.
In replying to people’s concerns about the USS Tennessee, the US military has a responsibility to give an explanation.
The truth needs to float up. This is a test for the touted American freedom of speech and transparency.