As the U.S. Navy's top officer went into quarantine earlier this month after a family member tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Ronald Reagan was preparing for a return to patrolling the waters of the western Pacific after dealing with its own COVID-19 outbreak.

The scenes were a microcosm of the U.S. military’s recent ups and downs in grappling with the virus as it has battled to maintain its formidable presence in the western Pacific, while both reassuring allies and preventing China from capitalizing on any perceived opening.

While U.S. defense chief Mark Esper said earlier this month that the pandemic has “had a very low impact on readiness," he has also warned that it could absorb a "greater impact" over time if the virus shows no signs of ebbing.