US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tests Positive for COVID-19
00:37 GMT 03.01.2022 (Updated: 12:44 GMT 13.04.2023)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed in a Sunday memo that he has tested positive for COVID-19 after a test was administered at his request.
Austin announced on January 2 that, despite testing positive for the contagious disease, he intends to virtually attend "key meetings and discussions" that are necessary "to inform my situational awareness and decision making."
"My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician’s directions," said the head of the US Department of Defense. "In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days."
His diagnosis comes alongside the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 in the US.
While the newer variant has been characterized as a milder form of the disease than its delta counterpart, the latter strain is still prevalent in the US, according to the recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Previous estimates overestimated the number of omicron variant cases across the country.
Kathleen Hicks, the US deputy secretary of defense, has been tapped to represent Austin, if needed.
The defense secretary noted that December 21, 2021, was his last meeting with US President Joe Biden, who is 79 years old and has received a COVID-19 vaccine booster jab.
"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," Austin said. "And I am grateful for that."
Austin noted the effectiveness of US COVID-19 vaccines, highlighting that the Pentagon intends to uphold the military medical requirement mandating that all US service members be vaccinated against the highly-contagious disease.