Top military leaders self-quarantining after positive coronavirus test at Pentagon

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks with members of the military before the Medal of Honor ceremony for US Army Sergeant Major Thomas Payne for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Iraq, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Tuesday that top military leaders are self-quarantining after one of the Coast Guard service chiefs tested positive for coronavirus. 

Coast Guard Vice Commandant Charles Ray tested positive for coronavirus on Monday after experiencing mild symptoms of the deadly disease over the weekend.

Last week, Ray participated in meetings at the Pentagon, some of which included members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military leaders.

“Chairman, Vice Chairman, and all Joint Chiefs have been tested and tested negative,” a defense official told CNBC. “None have exhibited any symptoms,” the person added.

The Pentagon said there were no more positive tests since Ray.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in an emailed statement Tuesday. Hoffman added that the Pentagon was conducting further contact tracing as well as additional testing.

Vice Admiral Charles Ray

James Brooks | Capital City Weekly | AP

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

The latest revelation comes as President Donald Trump returned to the White House after receiving care from Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. 

Trump announced early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcement came hours after the president said he would begin a quarantine process after top aide Hope Hicks tested positive for coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is next in line for the presidency, and his wife, Karen, have tested negative every day since Friday.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley met with Trump at the White House on Sunday for a Gold Star Families event. Esper tested negative for coronavirus on Monday, Wednesday and again on Friday.

Milley, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, tested negative on Friday morning. Milley is quaranting at home, NBC News reported, citing three officials.

Other top Pentagon leaders also were at Sunday’s event and tested negative since then: Army chief of staff Gen. James McConville; Air Force chief of staff Gen. Charles Brown; Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; chief of space operations Space Force Gen. John Raymond; and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.

Health experts say that even with a negative test, it is wise to isolate for 48 hours after exposure. 

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