Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, he said in a statement provided by the Department of Defense.
Austin said he is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is experiencing mild symptoms. He will quarantine for the next five days, per recently updated CDC protocol.
Austin was on holiday leave and had not been in contact with Pentagon staff since Thursday, and had not been around President Joe Biden since Dec. 21.
Austin’s full statement is below:
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.