Barrett COVID-19 Negative After Direct Contact with Infected Lithuanian Leader

Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett has tested negative for COVID-19 and is not quarantining even though she recently came in direct contact with Lithuanian Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis, who tested positive for the virus shortly after visiting the Pentagon.

However, Anthony Tata, who is performing the duties of the under secretary of defense for policy, tested positive for COVID-19 following the Nov. 13 visit and is isolating at home for two weeks, the Pentagon said in a statement released late Nov. 19. In addition to Barrett, Karoblis met with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite, and Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. All have tested negative, and none are quarantining despite being in contact with Karoblis.

“The Department has learned much over the last 10 months of COVID, and even more recently we have recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures—face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and virtual engagements among others,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“As CDC COVID mitigation guidelines were followed during the acting Secretary’s bilateral meeting with the minister, as well as meetings with Mr. Tata, Acting Secretary of Defense Miller is not quarantining. Similarly, each of the service Secretaries are not quarantining based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines,” the statement continued.

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher C. Miller hosts a bilateral meeting with Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Raimundas Karoblis at the Pentagon on Nov. 13, 2020. Photo: Marvin Lynchard/Defense Department

Following the meeting with Karoblis, Miller traveled and met with officials at Fort Bragg, N.C., and aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford. The Air Force did not have any information to add to the Pentagon statement.

It is the latest COVID-19 incident in the high ranking corridors of the Pentagon. On Oct. 28, Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson tested positive for the virus and has since returned after quarantining and recovering. In early October, Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles W. Ray and Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Gary L. Thomas tested positive, sending other members of the Joint Chiefs, including Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond into quarantine