Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who says he is fully vaccinated and boosted, announced Sunday that he tested positive for COVID and is experiencing mild symptoms. Austin said his last contact with Joe Biden was December 21, when he tested negative before the meeting and well before the onset of symptoms. This month the Defense Department started discharging several hundred servicemembers for refusing orders to get vaccinated against COVID-19, rejecting claims for religious exemptions.
Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave.
My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician’s directions.
In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days.
Stemming the spread of this virus, safeguarding our workforce and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities. 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 Secretary Hicks will represent me as appropriate in other matters.
I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result, as well as the President. My staff has begun contact tracing and testing of all those with whom I have come into contact over the last week.
My last meeting with President Biden occurred on Tuesday, December 21st, more than a week before I began to experience symptoms. I tested negative that very morning. I have not been in the Pentagon since Thursday, where I met briefly – and only – with a few members of my staff. We were properly masked and socially distanced throughout.
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.
The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce. I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue.
Breitbart’s Kristina Wong posted a meme already making the rounds:
A meme already floating around on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testing positive for COVID (SMs = service members): pic.twitter.com/AmXzEVjVVD
— Kristina Wong (@kristina_wong) January 3, 2022
CNN is very concerned:
Media: @barbarastarrcnn reports to @PamelaBrownCNN that @SecDef Lloyd Austin has today tested positive for #COVID19. His statement indicates mild symptoms, quarantine for five days. Staff beginning contact tracing, last meeting with @JoeBiden 21 December, when he tested negative. pic.twitter.com/omFzw1HuRt
— Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) January 3, 2022