Pentagon’s top military leaders quarantining at home after possible COVID-19 exposure

Almost all the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are quarantining at home after the vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard tested positive for COVID-19, according to two U.S. officials.



Mark A. Milley sitting on a table: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley listens before a meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at the Pentagon, Sept. 22, 2020, in Washington.


© Alex Brandon/AP, FILE
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley listens before a meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at the Pentagon, Sept. 22, 2020, in Washington.

The decision that the nation’s senior military leaders should quarantine was made after they were advised late Monday night that Adm. Charles Ray, with whom they had met with at a Pentagon meeting last Friday, had tested positive for the virus, said a U.S. official.

All of the people who attended the Pentagon meeting last Friday with Ray have tested negative for the virus and have not shown any symptoms, according to a senior Defense official.

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The senior officers quarantining at home as a precautionary move include Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the other senior generals and admiral in charge of the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and the Space Force.

“Chairman Milley, Vice Chairman Hyten, Adm. Gilday, Gens. McConville, Brown, Raymond, Hokanson, Nakasone and Thomas were all in meetings with Adm. Ray, as were members of the Joint Staff,” said the official. “All have been tested with no positive results to report and none are exhibiting any symptoms.”



Mark A. Milley sitting at a table: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley listens before a meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at the Pentagon, Sept. 22, 2020, in Washington.


© Alex Brandon/AP, FILE
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley listens before a meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, at the Pentagon, Sept. 22, 2020, in Washington.

Video: U.S. military top brass go into self-quarantine (Reuters – US Video Online)

U.S. military top brass go into self-quarantine

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Not under quarantine is Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, who was on foreign travel at the time of the meeting, said a U.S. official. However, Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant 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.

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Earlier on Tuesday the Pentagon’s top spokesman confirmed that contact tracing was also underway.

“We are aware that Vice Commandant Ray has tested positive for COVID-19 and that he was at the Pentagon last week for meetings with other senior military leaders,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman in a statement. “Some meeting attendees included other service chiefs. We are conducting additional contact tracing and taking appropriate precautions to protect the force and the mission.”



a man wearing a military uniform: Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Charles W. Ray. The Coast Guard's second highest-ranking officer tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Pentagon announcement, Oct. 6, 2020.


© U.S. Coast Guard
Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Charles W. Ray. The Coast Guard’s second highest-ranking officer tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Pentagon announcement, Oct. 6, 2020.

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

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Hoffman also said that there’s no change to the operational readiness or capabilities of the U.S. Armed Forces and that the senior military leaders are able to perform their duties from an “alternative work location.”

“DoD has been following CDC guidelines since April with respect to temperature testing, social distancing and the wearing of masks to the greatest extent when social distancing is not possible and will continue to do so,” said Hoffman.

Many of the same senior officers who attended the Friday meeting at the Pentagon also attended an event at the White House late last month to honor Gold Star Families.

Coronavirus testing of the officers who attended the Sunday event were negative after concerns were expressed that it could have been a “super-spreader” event.

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