By Tom Squitieri, Talk Media News
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s military leaders were exposed to COVID-19 during meetings with a contagious senior Coast Guard officer and are ongoing protocols to ensure they have not caught the virus.
Pentagon officials said members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are quarantining at home after Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, tested positive for COVID-19. Ray is not a member of the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon chiefs council, but he was at Pentagon last week for meetings and was in contact with the senior military officers.
“We are conducting additional contact tracing and taking appropriate precautions to protect the force and the mission. Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon chief spokesperson, said.
Among those quarantined are Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, Vice Chair John Hyten, the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the National Guard, and members of the Joint Staff. “All have been tested with no positive results to report and none are exhibiting any symptoms,” another Pentagon official said.
Gen. David Berger, the Marine commandant, did not attend the meetings where Ray was present. Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant Marine commandant, who took his place at the high-level meeting is quarantining.
Also quarantining is Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency.
The quarantine does not affect Defense Secretary Mark Esper. He met Tuesday with Bulgarian defense minister Krasimir Karakachanov at the Pentagon in a rare open press event. The two men signed a 10-year defense agreement between the two nations and Karakachanov made a pitch to purchase F-35 aircraft.
Hoffman said 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,” he said.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Diana Sherbs)