COVID-19 puts the military’s chain of command into quarantine - Task & Purpose

COVID-19 puts the military’s chain of command into quarantine

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Most of the U.S. military’s top officers are in quarantine following recent meetings with Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray, who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), defense officials said Tuesday.

Task & Purpose has learned that the following leaders are affected:

  • Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.
  • Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday.
  • Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown.
  • Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond.
  • Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau.
  • Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency.
  • Marine Gen. Gary Thomas, assistant Marine Corps commandant.

None of the officers who had contact with Ray have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, defense officials said.

Ray, who was at the Pentagon on Oct. 2 for meetings with senior military leaders, also attended a Sept. 27 event at the White House, according to the Coast Guard. President Donald Trump then announced on Oct. 2 that he had tested positive for the Coronavirus.

“We are conducting additional contact tracing and taking appropriate precautions to protect the force and the mission,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said on Tuesday. “Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning. No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”

One unanswered question is whether any military or civilian personnel who had contact with military leaders exposed to COVID-19 will have to self-quarantine as well. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends quarantine for people who have been in “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19. “Close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or longer.

"Although no additional senior leaders have tested positive following our contact tracing efforts, those that have been in close contact with Admiral Ray will quarantine in accordance with Coast Guard and CDC guidelines, as will any additional impacted members," said  Rear Adm. Jon Hickey, director of governmental and public affairs for the Coast Guard.

Task & Purpose has reached out to the other military branches individually to see if any staffers or senior enlisted leaders are self-quarantining. It has been confirmed that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith are not in quarantine.

The U.S. military has not made any changes to its operational readiness levels and the affected leaders are able to continue working, Hoffman said.

This latest news means that representatives from all of the military branches have been exposed to COVID-19 at a time when the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services are tasked with developing and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.

It also shows that nothing good ever comes from meetings.

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