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U.S. military leaders under quarantine after official tests positive for coronavirus

The chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff and other top military leaders are under quarantine after a senior Coast Guard official tested positive for the coronavirus, two U.S. officials said.

Military says leaders are working from home, readiness not affected

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is seen at the White House on Sept. 11. Milley is among top U.S. military leaders in quarantine after an official tested positive for the novel coronavirus. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

Top United States military leaders are under self-quarantine after a senior coast guard official tested positive for the coronavirus, the Pentagon said Tuesday. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and the vice-chairman, Gen. John Hyten, were among those affected, U.S. officials said.

Military leaders who were in contact with Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice-commandant of the coast guard, were told Monday evening that he had tested positive, and they were all tested Tuesday morning, according to several U.S. officials. Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement that none have exhibited symptoms or have so far tested positive.

Ray was in a meeting of the joint chiefs late Friday morning in what's called "the tank" — the classified meeting room in the Pentagon. Officials said that is where most of the military leaders were exposed to him, but he also had other meetings with officials.

The news stunned officials at the Pentagon. Top leaders there have largely remained free of the virus, although there have been a number of outbreaks across the active duty force and the reserves around the country and overseas. Overall more than 47,000 service members have tested positive for the virus as of Monday; 625 have been hospitalized and eight have died.

It is not known how Ray contracted the virus. He attended an event for military families at the White House about 10 days ago, as did several military leaders. But it's not clear if he contracted the virus there or elsewhere, officials said.

Military readiness not affected: Pentagon

Hoffman said the quarantining of leaders won't affect "the operational readiness or mission capability of the U.S. armed forces."

"Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location," he said.

Top military leaders have robust communication systems installed in their homes as a routine matter, and many have sporadically worked from home during the pandemic for a variety of reasons. Some stayed home after having been exposed to the virus, and others have self-quarantined for a short time after returning from travel.

Hoffman's statement did not identify those affected, but multiple U.S. officials said that besides Milley, they included the chiefs of the army, navy and air force, as well as the head of U.S. Cyber Command Gen. Paul Nakasone.

Up to 14 officials are believed to have been potentially exposed to the virus after meetings last week with Ray. The officials were informed about the positive test on Monday.

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