Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time on Monday but is experiencing mild symptoms.
The vaccinated and boosted secretary said in a statement that his last contact with President Joe Biden, who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 21, occurred on July 29. Since then, he traveled to U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and met with government leaders and U.S. troops in Latvia.
“I am experiencing mild symptoms, and will quarantine at home for the next five days in accordance with CDC guidelines. I will retain all authorities and plan to maintain my normal work schedule virtually from home,” said Austin.
Pentagon spokesperson Charlie Dietz told the Daily Caller News Foundation that contact tracing has begun and all close contacts of the secretary were notified.
“Now, as in January, my doctor told me that my fully vaccinated status, including two booster shots, is why my symptoms are less severe than would otherwise be the case. I will continue to consult closely with my doctor in the coming days,” Ausin said.
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) August 9, 2022
Austin has come under criticism from conservative and religious groups for enforcing COVID-19 vaccination requirements in the U.S. military, a policy that could see up to 60,000 soldiers booted from the military amid a historic recruiting crisis. Replacing the troops discharged for refusing the vaccine could cost up to $4 billion, if the military could even recruit that many, and lead to the loss of thousands of man-years of experience, rank and grade. (RELATED: The Army Has Approved Just 20 Permanent Religious Vaccine Exemptions Out Of Thousands Of Requests)
“Vaccinations continue to both slow the spread of COVID-19 and to make its health effects less severe,” said Austin. “Vaccination remains a medical requirement for our workforce, and I continue to encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated and boosted.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rachelle Walensky said in August 2021 that vaccination does not meaningfully prevent COVID-19 transmission.
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