Top military leaders in quarantine after Coast Guard admiral tests positive for Covid-19

Top military leaders in quarantine after Coast Guard admiral tests positive for Covid-19


The nation’s top military leaders, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, are self-quarantining after coming into contact last week with the Coast Guard’s No. 2 officer, who tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, according to administration officials.

Senior military leaders who attended several meetings at the Pentagon last week with Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested negative for Covid-19 on Tuesday but are self-quarantining as a precaution, a defense official said.

Officials believe that a Friday meeting in the “tank” — the Pentagon’s secure conference room for senior military leaders — is where the virus could have spread to others, a second defense official said.

Pentagon officials are conducting additional contact tracing and taking other precautions “to protect the force and the mission,” said Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” Hoffman said Tuesday afternoon. “No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”

Ray was among several military leaders who attended an event at the White House on Sept. 27 celebrating Gold Star families. A day earlier, the White House held an outdoor event as President Donald Trump officially nominated Amy Coney Barrett to be the next Supreme Court justice. Many people who attended have since tested positive, including Trump himself.

The admiral felt “mild symptoms” this weekend and got tested Monday, according to a Coast Guard statement.

Not all of the military’s leaders are under quarantine. Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite were traveling last week and did not attend the Pentagon meetings with Ray.

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has also been on travel and has not been in contact with Ray, spokesperson Jay Guyer said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff includes the chairman, vice chairman, and the four-star heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard and Space Force.

Beyond the Joint Chiefs, other leaders who took part in the meetings and are under self-quarantine include U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Paul Nakasone and Gen. Gary Thomas, assistant Marine Corps commandant, a third defense official said.

Milley and Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten get tested “on a regular basis” for Covid-19, the first defense official said, adding that the length of military leaders’ quarantine period will be “conditions-based.”

“Anybody we know on the Joint Staff who was in contact with Adm. Ray has been tested and is observing CDC protocol,” the official said.

All of the Joint Chiefs have the ability to do their jobs from wherever they are working, the official said.

“There is no change to the operational readiness or mission capability of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Hoffman said. “Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location.”

Yet House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the “national security implications of the President’s recklessness cannot be overstated.”

“Our adversaries are always looking for any weakness to exploit,” Smith said. “President Trump’s pathetic attempts to exude strength aren’t fooling anyone — Americans know he is weak and so do those who wish us harm.”

This week’s developments mark the Joint Chiefs’ second brush with coronavirus.

In May, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, then the head of the National Guard, tested positive when visiting the White House, although a subsequent test showed he was negative.

That same week, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday self-quarantined after coming into contact with a family member who had tested positive.

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