U.S. military chiefs in quarantine, as COVID-19 infections linked to White House continue to grow

Li Jiayao
2020-10-08 23:31:38
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies before the House Armed Services Committee during a hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., the United States, on Feb. 26, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Members of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman Mark Milley, are reportedly in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19, as infections linked to the White House continue to grow.

The news emerged Tuesday afternoon after the Coast Guard announced its vice commandant, Admiral Charles Ray, had tested positive for the virus and would be quarantining from home.

Ray attended meetings with other senior military leaders at the Pentagon last week, according to a spokesperson.

"Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning," Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. "No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time."

In addition to Milley, Vice Chairman John Hyten and several other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a panel of high-ranking U.S. military officers who advise the president and other civilian leaders on military issues, have also reportedly entered quarantine.

"There is no change to the operational readiness or mission capability of the US Armed Forces," Hoffman said. "Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location."

Meanwhile, Stephen Miller, senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, and several others have joined a growing list of individuals in the president's orbit known to have contracted COVID-19, which included his confidants, campaign and White House aides, allies on Capitol Hill, and journalists covering the White House.

"Over the last 5 days I have been working remotely and self-isolating, testing negative every day through yesterday," Miller said in a statement. "Today, I tested positive for COVID-19 and am in quarantine."

A screengrab from Katie Miller's Twitter account on May 26, 2020 shows that the communications director for U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted "Back at work today after three NEGATIVE COVID tests," more than two weeks after contracting the coronavirus. (Xinhua)

Miller's wife, Vice President Mike Pence's communications director Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19 in May.

She tested negative on Tuesday morning and traveled with Pence to Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2020 vice presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday but left the trip "out of an abundance of caution" as soon as she learned of her husband's diagnosis, according to an official.

Devin O'Malley, Pence's press secretary, tweeted Tuesday evening that the vice president had tested negative again in the afternoon.

"Vice President Mike Pence is encouraged to go about his normal activities and does not need to quarantine," according to a memo written by his doctor.

Democrats are demanding more information and transparency from the White House around details of recent events that may have led to the infection of Trump and others.

"The Trump White House's opaque, secretive handling of its super-spreader event is a public health threat," Senate Minority Leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer tweeted. "The outbreak which hospitalized Pres. Trump and infected numerous WH staff, 3 Senators, and more has yet to be fully contained."

A day after returning to the White House following a three-day hospitalization for COVID-19, Trump, who continues to receive treatment, has reported no symptoms, White House physician Sean Conley said in his memo Tuesday.

The Marine One carrying U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the White House in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Oct. 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)

"He had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms. Vital signs and physical exam remain stable, with an ambulatory oxygen saturation level of 95-97 percent," Conley wrote. "Overall he continues to do extremely well."

Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning he was feeling "great" and looking forward to the next debate with 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Miami, Florida on Oct. 15.

Hours earlier, Republicans again sought to downplay COVID-19 by comparing it to flu, which was later hidden by Twitter behind a label stating that it violated its rules "about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information" related to the virus.

Trump and Biden met for their first encounter in the 2020 race in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 29, two days before the incumbent's diagnosis. The presidential candidates did not shake hands that night, while there was a distance between their podiums with neither wearing masks on stage.

Biden has undergone four COVID-19 tests since Oct. 2 with all results returning negative, according to his campaign team.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign stop in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Tuesday evening, Biden said the next debate should not be held if Trump still has the virus.

"I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn't have a debate," Biden, who's leading his rival in national and battleground state polls, said. "I'm not sure what President Trump is all about now. I don't know what his status is. I'm looking forward to being able to debate him, but I just hope all the protocols are followed."

It is unclear if Trump, who may remain contagious, will be healthy enough to attend the matchup, as his doctors have warned he isn't out of the woods yet. Aged 74 and clinically obese, the president is at a higher risk of serious complications from the virus that has infected over 7.5 million people and killed more than 210,000 in the United States.


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