US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tests positive for COVID-19
- In a statement, Austin said he plans to attend key meetings and discussions virtually in the coming week
- Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks would represent him in appropriate matters
- “I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result, as well as the President,” Austin said
The 68-year-year-old said in a statement that he requested the test after exhibiting symptoms and will quaratine himself at home for the next five days, according to guidelines from the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"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," The Pentagon chief said.
"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," he said, adding that Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks will represent him in other matters.
Austin said he last met President Joe Biden on December 21, over a week before his symptoms began, and tested negative on that morning. He last visited the Pentagon on Thursday, where he briefly met a few staff members. "We were properly masked & socially distanced throughout," he said.
He also encouraged the use of vaccines, saying that his fully vaccinated status - along with the booster he received in October - "have rendered the infection much more mild than it would otherwise have been".
"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," Austin said.
In October, another member of Biden's Cabinet, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, tested positive for COVID-19.