Pentagon chief Austin tests positive for Covid-19


Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Sunday night that he has tested positive for Covid-19 and reported that his symptoms are mild.

In a statement, Austin said he received a positive test result Sunday morning. He requested a test after experiencing symptoms at home.

Austin, who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot, said he will quarantine at home for the next five days.

"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," Austin said.

The Pentagon chief said he has informed President Joe Biden and other Defense Department officials of his positive test. Austin said he last met with Biden on Dec. 21 and has not been in the Pentagon since Thursday.

He indicated he plans to attend meetings virtually this week.

"Stemming the spread of this virus, safeguarding our workforce and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities," he said. "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 Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will fill in for him "as appropriate in other matters."

Austin is the latest Pentagon official to test positive for coronavirus. Last month, National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Dan Hokanson tested positive.

Austin's breakthrough case comes as the Omicron variant rages through the U.S. and has produced a sharp uptick in Covid cases in recent weeks.

Austin also reupped calls for DoD personnel to receive the vaccine. The Pentagon has mandated the vaccine for troops, and the Pentagon chief noted immunization against the virus is an issue for military readiness.

"The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce," Austin said. "I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue."

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