The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military advisers to the president, are heading into quarantine after a top Coast Guard official tested positive for the coronavirus.
The vice commandant of the US Coast Guard, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive for the virus on Monday. Defense Department officials now say the chair and vice chair, along with the military heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Space Force, and US Cyber Command will isolate “out of an abundance of caution” after attending sensitive Pentagon meetings with Ray. (The Marine Corps commandant wasn’t in these meetings.)
“All potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning,” Jonathan Hoffman, the top Pentagon spokesperson, said in a Tuesday statement. “No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time.”
DEVELOPING: @USCG Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray tests positive for #COVID19 - was at the Pentagon last week for mtgs w/sr military leaders— Jeff Seldin (@jseldin) October 6, 2020
"Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining" per @ChiefPentSpox pic.twitter.com/vKGDQW1Xfl
Which means that Covid-19 has now reached the highest echelons of the US military. While the Joint Chiefs aren’t in the chain of command, they do lead their respective services and provide President Donald Trump with important military advice on key national security questions. If they can’t perform their duties to their fullest abilities, it makes America’s defense process a little harder.
It’s still unclear how or where Ray got infected, but he and other top brass attended the White House’s reception for Gold Star families on Sunday, at which many participants failed to wear masks. That ceremony took place a day after the White House ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, where many at the event seemingly caught the virus. Trump tested positive for the coronavirus about five days after the public Barrett reveal, requiring him to spend a few days at Walter Reed medical center.
Simply put, it’s just not a good look for a top military official to potentially have been infected during a White House event. Ray reportedly felt unwell last Friday, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is roughly within the average time frame in which symptoms begin to show after exposure.
Ray went on to attend meetings with Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs chair, and other senior Pentagon officials last week in small secure areas. Some of the officials who were in the room with him are still awaiting the results of their coronavirus tests.
Meanwhile, one of Trump’s top military aides, Jayna McCarron of the Coast Guard, also tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday along with an active-duty military valet that traveled with the president around the time he announced his positive coronavirus test.
In the meantime, it’s a good idea for the Joint Chiefs to work from home to keep themselves and others safe. Milley, by virtue of being Trump’s top military adviser, can still receive classified information and communications at home.