Senior Pentagon leadership quarantining after exposure to coronavirus

The top US general, Gen. Mark Milley, and several members of the senior Pentagon leadership are quarantining after a top Coast Guard official tested positive for coronavirus, several US defense officials disclosed on Tuesday afternoon.

The Vice Commandant of the US Coast Guard, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive on Monday.

“On Monday, the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Ray, tested positive for COVID-19. He was tested the same day, after feeling mild symptoms over the weekend,” the Coast Guard said in a statement Tuesday.

“The Coast Guard is following established policies for COVID, per CDC guidelines, to include quarantine and contact tracing. According to CDC guidelines, and Coast Guard personnel that were in close contact will also quarantine.

In accordance with established Coast Guard COVID policies, Admiral Ray will be quarantining from home,” the statement said.

Ray recently attended several meetings at the Pentagon in secure areas with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Multiple defense officials say senior Pentagon leadership who had been in proximity to Ray has been tested and are awaiting results.

As a precaution, Milley is working from home, a defense official says.

Milley has so far tested negative and as President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, he maintains a full classified communications suite in his house, according to the official.

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The Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Charles Brown, the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday, and the Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John Raymond, also are all working from home, according to several officials.

The news comes after Trump staged a reckless departure from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, telling his followers that the virus that dangerously deprived him of oxygen and hospitalized him for 72 hours was nothing to fear before posing for a mask-less photo-op on the White House balcony.

At least 11 of the President’s aides or allies have either contracted the virus or — in the case of his daughter Ivanka — are working from home.

Entire suites of offices sit vacant as Trump’s aides work to isolate him in the residence and out of the West Wing.

In the White House residence where he was speaking without a mask, an already slimmed-down staff has been reduced even further after the President and first lady both came down with coronavirus.

At least one staffer — who is military personnel directly assigned to support the President in the Oval Office and residence — tested positive over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the virus spreading among senior Pentagon leaders will likely raise additional national security questions, particularly given the military’s role in attempting to reassure the American public following Trump’s positive diagnosis last week.

In a statement issued Friday morning, the Pentagon sought to alleviate fears that Trump’s positive Covid-19 diagnosis presented a potentially imminent threat to national security, emphasizing that the development did not warrant a change in defense alert levels or military posture.

“There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces. Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement,” said Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.

“The US military stands ready to defend our country and interests,” he added.

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