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Top US Military Leaders Quarantining After Coronavirus Exposure


FILE - The Pentagon is seen from an airplane over Washington, DC in this photo taken on Oct. 30, 2018.
FILE - The Pentagon is seen from an airplane over Washington, DC in this photo taken on Oct. 30, 2018.

Top U.S. military leaders, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, are self-quarantining after contact with U.S. Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray, who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Pentagon officials have confirmed to VOA that Milley, Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten, and several other top military officers who attended meetings with Ray in the Pentagon’s secure “tank” last week tested negative for the virus early Tuesday and have experienced no COVID-19 symptoms as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining,” Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement issued by his office. “No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms, and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”

In addition to Milley and Hyten, Ray attended meetings with four military service chiefs — Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "C.Q." Brown; and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John "Jay" Raymond — along with Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Gary Thomas, according to senior defense officials.

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Cyber Command Chief Gen. Paul Nakasone and various lower ranking members of the Joint Staff were also in meetings with Ray.

It is unclear how Ray, who received a positive test result on Monday after experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend, was exposed to the coronavirus, according to officials.

A defense official told VOA the leaders were quarantining in order to comply with Defense Department guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Milley, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other senior defense officials have been tested frequently since September 27, when they attended a White House reception for Gold Star families of fallen troops. Both President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were at that event and tested positive for coronavirus later in the week.

Esper, who was on a trip to visit North African allies at the time of Trump’s diagnosis, tested negative for coronavirus on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week, according to Hoffman.