The littoral combat ship Milwaukee returned to sea Monday following a COVID-19 outbreak among the crew that sidelined the ship in recent weeks.

The ship had just begun its deployment to the waters of U.S. 4th Fleet when COVID struck an unspecified portion of the crew, forcing the ship to extend a scheduled port visit to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that began on Dec. 20.

It remains unclear when the outbreak was first detected, but the sea service first disclosed details on Dec. 24.

While the Navy has declined to say how many Milwaukee sailors were infected, the entire crew was fully vaccinated and infected sailors “exhibited mild or no symptoms,” the Navy said Monday.

During the extended port stay, sailors were offered the COVID-19 booster that is not mandatory but recommended for sailors.

The crew is continuing “aggressive cleaning protocols” and wearing masks while maintaining social distancing as they return to operations.

Milwaukee’s 4th Fleet deployment will involve drug trafficking interdiction missions in the Caribbean Sea and eastern Pacific, according to the Navy.

“It is great to be heading back out to sea,” Cmdr. Brian Forster, Milwaukee’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “My entire crew is feeling great, healthy and excited for the next portion of our deployment.”

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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