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US defense chief tests positive for COVID

Lloyd Austin experiencing mild symptoms and isolating at home; says it’s more than a week since he met with Biden in person

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, in Washington, Nov. 17, 2021. (Alex Brandon/AP)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, in Washington, Nov. 17, 2021. (Alex Brandon/AP)

WASHINGTON  —US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday he has tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing mild symptoms while quarantining at home.

In a statement Sunday night, Austin said he plans to attend key meetings and discussions virtually in the coming week “to the degree possible.” He said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks would represent him in appropriate matters.

Austin said he last met with President Joe Biden on Dec. 21, more than a week before he began to experience symptoms, and had tested negative the morning of that day.

“I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result, as well as the President,” Austin said. “My staff has begun contact tracing and testing of all those with whom I have come into contact over the last week.”

Austin, 68, said he was fully vaccinated and received a booster in October. He said he requested a test Sunday morning after experiencing symptoms while at home on leave and, given the result, planned to remain in quarantine for five days, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“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,” he said.

In October, another member of Biden’s Cabinet, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, tested positive for COVID-19.

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