Members of the United States military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff have gone into self-quarantine after the Coast Guard’s second-in-command tested positive for the novel coronavirus following a top-level meeting at the Pentagon last week, US officials said on Tuesday. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, was among those affected, Pentagon officials said.
US defence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the military’s top brass – with the exception of the Coast Guard Vice Commandant, Admiral Charles Ray – had all tested negative so far and were still carrying out their duties. None have exhibited symptoms or have so far tested positive.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the quarantining of leaders will not affect “the operational readiness or mission capability of the US Armed Forces”.
“Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission-capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location,” he said.
Hoffman’s statement did not identify those affected, but multiple US officials said that besides Milley, they included the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the head of US Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss information not yet made public.
The disclosure risks adding to a sense of uncertainty about operations at the highest levels of the US government after President Donald Trump himself contracted the illness, along with senior White House staff and other Republican leaders.
It is not known how Ray contracted the virus, but it was not believed to be related to the outbreak affecting Trump and others at the White House, the officials said.
The Coast Guard said in a statement that Ray felt mild symptoms over the weekend and was tested on Monday. The other military officials were informed about Ray’s positive test the same day.
Ray attended meetings late last week with the US military’s top brass, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Milley, who is Trump’s top military advisor.
US officials told Reuters that Milley was self-isolating, as was the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The Coast Guard said Ray will be quarantining from home.