U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has tested positive for Covid-19.
The Defense chief was found to have infected with the virus in a diagnostic test conducted on Sunday after he showed symptoms while at home on leave.
“My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician’s directions,” Austin said in a statement.
He added that in keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, he will quarantine at home for the next five days.
“Stemming the spread of this virus, safeguarding our workforce and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities. To the degree possible, I plan to attend virtually this coming week those key meetings and discussions required to inform my situational awareness and decision making. I will retain all authorities. Deputy Secretary Hicks will represent me as appropriate in other matters,’ the statement says.
Austin said he has informed the Pentagon leadership team and President Joe Biden of his positive test result.
The Office of the Defense Secretary has begun contact tracing and testing of all those with whom he has come into contact over the last week.
Austin’s last meeting with President Biden occurred on December 21, more than a week before he began to experience symptoms. He had tested negative that morning.
Austin has not been in the Pentagon since Thursday, where he met briefly with a few members of his staff.
“We were properly masked and socially distanced throughout,” Austin said.
“As my doctor made clear to me, my fully vaccinated status — and the booster I received in early October — have rendered the infection much more mild than it would otherwise have been. And I am grateful for that.”
“The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce. I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue,” Austin said in the statement.
He is the second member of the Biden Cabinet to have been infected with coronavirus recently.
The first one was Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Last month, a White House staff member who was in close contact with President Joe Biden, and another White House aide who spent time closely with Vice President Kamala Harris were found to have infected with coronavirus later.
In October, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had tested positive for Covid.
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