- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2020

COVID-19 has confined some of the nation’s most powerful military commanders to the barracks.

Pentagon officials moved quickly to calm nerves on Tuesday after most of the nation’s top military leaders went into quarantine following their possible exposure to the deadly coronavirus. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with the senior leaders of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force all went into self-quarantine out of “an abundance of caution,” officials said.

With President Trump and top White House officials also dealing with an outbreak, two of Washington’s most powerful power centers are scrambling to adjust and keep functioning.

The military commander had all been in meetings with Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, who tested positive on Monday for COVID-19. Coast Guard personnel who were in close contact with him will quarantine as well, officials said.

The senior Pentagon leaders all tested negative on Tuesday. At least one of the meetings where they may have been exposed was believed to have been inside the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room, known as “The Tank,” officials said.

“No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission-capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location.”

In addition to Gen. Milley, the other Pentagon military leaders in self-quarantine included Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville; Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval operations; and top commanders of the Air Force, Space Operations, National Guard, and U.S. Cyber Command.

Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, did not attend any recent meetings with Adm. Ray and is not believed to have been exposed, officials said.

“We are conducting additional contact tracing and taking appropriate precautions to protect the force and the mission,” Mr. Hoffman said.

Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, military officials have mandated wearing masks and social distancing inside the Pentagon for several months. Random temperature testing is routine for people coming into the Pentagon.

News that the Pentagon brass may have been exposed to COVID-19 comes only a day after Mr. Trump was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following his own bout with the coronavirus. He will remain in the White House for the rest of his quarantine period and treatment. While he has been tweeting about his rapidly improving health, Mr. Trump’s doctors have warned he isn’t out of the woods yet.

The coronavirus has been a health and logistical headache for the military, with outbreaks among service members and support staff, as well as interruptions to recruitment, training, transfers and military exercises.

Through Sept. 28, the Defense Department reported over 45,000 cases of COVID-19 among active-duty personnel, and eight fatal cases. Counting civilian workers, dependents and contractors, the military overall has reported around 65,500 cases and 96 deaths through the end of last month.

A severe case aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt generated national headlines. A COVID-19 outbreak aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier was discovered in late March, about two weeks after a four-day stop in Da Nang, Vietnam.

The outbreak killed one sailor and infected more than 1,200 others aboard the Roosevelt. It led to the firing of its commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, and the forced resignation of former acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly.

Adm. Gilday, now in quarantine from a possible exposure to COVID-19, ultimately declined to reinstate Capt. Crozier following an investigation into the Roosevelt case.

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