Coronavirus struck senior Pentagon leaders over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Marine Corps Commandant David H. Berger testing positive.
The other Joint Chiefs have all tested negative in recent days.
Joint Staff Spokesperson Col. Dave Butler informed members of the media that Milley tested positive Jan. 16 and was self-isolating. “He is experiencing very minor symptoms and can perform all of his duties from the remote location,” Butler said in a statement.
Milley is vaccinated and has had a booster shot, Butler said. Vaccinations have proven less effective at stopping the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19, but it’s not clear which variant Milley or Berger has. Vaccinations remain a requirement, and the military services have begun to discharge thousands of members who have declined the shots and failed to receive a medical or religious waiver. While official policy allows for religious waivers, so far just two have been approved.
Air Force Public Affairs chief Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder told Air Force Magazine Jan. 17 that Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay“ Raymond and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. had tested negative for coronavirus within the previous 24 hours.
Milley’s most recent contact with President Joe Biden was Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the funeral of former Army chief Gen. Raymond T. Odierno.
Butler said Milley “tested negative several days prior to and every day following contact with the President until yesterday.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III tested positive for coronavirus Jan. 1 and worked remotely with mild symptoms for nine days before testing negative and returning to the Pentagon on Jan. 10.
Austin joined Biden at a socially distanced Eisenhower Executive Office Building event Jan. 13 with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to announce that 1,000 Active-duty military medical personnel would form six medical teams deploying to hospitals in six states to aid staff shortages due to the spike in omicron variant infections sweeping the nation.