Joint Chiefs in COVID Quarantine

Because of course they are.

The top uniformed leaders of the United States armed forces are working from home until further notice.

CNN (“Senior Pentagon leadership quarantining after exposure to coronavirus“):

The top US general, Gen. Mark Milley, and several members of the senior Pentagon leadership are quarantining after a top Coast Guard official tested positive for coronavirus, several US defense officials tell CNN.

The Vice Commandant of the US Coast Guard, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive on Monday.

“On Monday, the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Ray, tested positive for COVID-19. He was tested the same day, after feeling mild symptoms over the weekend,” the Coast Guard said in a statement Tuesday.

“The Coast Guard is following established policies for COVID, per CDC guidelines, to include quarantine and contact tracing. According to CDC guidelines, any Coast Guard personnel that were in close contact will also quarantine. In accordance with established Coast Guard COVID policies, Admiral Ray will be quarantining from home,” the statement said.

Ray recently attended several meetings at the Pentagon in secure areas with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Multiple defense officials tell CNN that senior Pentagon leadership who had been in proximity to Ray have been tested and are awaiting results.

As a precaution, Milley is working from home, a defense official says. Milley has so far tested negative. As President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, he maintains a full classified communications suite in his house, the official said.

The Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Charles Brown, the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and the Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John Raymond, also are all working from home, according to several officials.

Whether Ray’s infection stems from the reckless disregard for safety protocols by President Trump and his staff is unclear at this point. Indeed, it’s likely unknowable since the White House is steadfastly refusing to initiate contact tracing.

Despite almost daily disclosures of new coronavirus infections among President Trump’s close associates, the White House is making little effort to investigate the scope and source of its outbreak.

The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration 10 days ago for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, where at least eight people, including the president, may have become infected, according to a White House official familiar with the plans.

Instead, it has limited its efforts to notifying people who came in close contact with Mr. Trump in the two days before his Covid diagnosis Thursday evening. It has also cut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has the government’s most extensive knowledge and resources for contact tracing, out of the process.

Regardless, the implications are obvious:

The news comes after Trump staged a reckless departure from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, telling his followers that the virus that dangerously deprived him of oxygen and hospitalized him for 72 hours was nothing to fear before posing for a mask-less photo-op on the White House balcony.At least 11 of the President’s aides or allies have either contracted the virus or — in the case of his daughter Ivanka — are working from home. Entire suites of offices sit vacant as Trump’s aides work to isolate him in the residence and out of the West Wing.In the White House residence where he was speaking without a mask, an already slimmed-down staff has been reduced even further after the President and first lady both came down with coronavirus. At least one staffer — who is military personnel directly assigned to support the President in the Oval Office and residence — tested positive over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, the prospect of the virus spreading among senior Pentagon leaders will likely raise additional national security questions, particularly given the military’s role in attempting to reassure the American public following Trump’s positive diagnosis last week.

In a statement issued Friday morning, the Pentagon sought to alleviate fears that Trump’s positive Covid-19 diagnosis presented a potentially imminent threat to national security, emphasizing that the development did not warrant a change in defense alert levels or military posture.”

There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces. Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement,” said Jonathan Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.

Presumably, if the Pentagon operated as smoothly with the Joint Chiefs all hunkered down at home, they’d have been doing so all along given that it’s obviously safer.

Meanwhile, back at the White House,

Instead of a bustling hive of pre-election activity, the West Wing has become a breeding ground for viral contagion. At least 11 of the President’s aides or allies have either contracted the virus or — in the case of his daughter Ivanka — are working from home. Entire suites of offices sit vacant as Trump’s aides work to isolate him in the residence and out of the West Wing.A new aura of mistrust was settling in as several aides raised questions about whether they had been recklessly put in harm’s way over the past week. Accusations of mismanagement — directed mainly at White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — have flown amid one of the gravest presidential crises in a generation. An absence of robust contact tracing efforts caused ripples of concern as testing and mask-wearing norms were being second-guessed.

None of that anxiety was allayed when Trump arrived back to the White House Monday. His first act after striding up the South Portico steps was to rip off his mask and stuff it into his pocket — even though he remains infected with coronavirus and could potentially infect those nearby. He was then seen going back out onto the balcony and re-entering so a camera crew could shoot his entrance.

“We’re going back. We’re going back to work. We’re gonna be out front,” Trump said in a video-taped message upon his return. “As your leader I had to do that. I knew there’s danger to it, but I had to do it.”

Though four hours earlier his doctors conceded he was not yet “out of the woods” in his fight against Covid-19, Trump framed the disease as in the past: “Now I’m better and maybe I’m immune? I don’t know. But don’t let it dominate your lives.”

In the White House residence where he was speaking without a mask, an already slimmed-down staff has been reduced even further after the President and first lady both came down with coronavirus. At least one staffer — who is military personnel directly assigned to support the President in the Oval Office and residence — tested positive over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Good times.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    This is a Democratic plot to bring down the president. Ask any Trump supporter.

    5
  2. Slugger says:

    I heard a Republican say that China should be held accountable for this virus. Once it reached our shores we, our leadership, became responsible inside the USA. Disregard for fundamental concepts of hygiene has consequences. Trump should be very held accountable for this spread in our country, our top leadership, and his own family.

    6
  3. Teve says:

    @Slugger: if the fucking White House can’t contain it, how was Wuhan province supposed to?

    4
  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    @james, the other day you had a post on the advisability of Pence being out on the campaign trail. Perhaps we need to consider, that despite the risks, as long as he’s testing negative, he is safer there. If he were camped out at the residence or the Eisenhower Exec building, Trump would likely summons him to the WH.

    8
  5. Hal_10000 says:

    We also now have an NYT reporter’s wife coming down with it. This is the thing: it’s not just about the President infecting people; it’s about the *chains* of infections that are started. The other day, we talked about the USSS and a lot of people said, “Hey, they agree to risk their lives for the President!” Maybe. But did their wives? Did their families? Did their kids’ teachers?

    Meanwhile, he’s telling people not to worry about the virus and that it’s no more dangerous than the flu. Appalling. Even by his standaards.

    17
  6. dmichael says:

    @Slugger: Other than voting him out of office, how do you propose we hold him “accountable?”

  7. CSK says:

    Oh, here’s a great comment from a Trumpkin:

    “And our military leaders go running to the quarantine bunkers screaming like 5th grade school girls! Nice image for our enemies! If I were Trump, I’d dismiss each one of these do nothing butt kissers and put some war fighters in positions of authority in the military for a change!”

    Before November 2016 I was never embarrassed to be an American, but man, sharing citizenship with these troglodytes is beginning to be a bit much.

    14
  8. Mikey says:

    @CSK: I wonder if that imbecile has ever served a day in uniform (I doubt it). If he had, he’d understand what General Milley’s 101st Airborne Division combat patch, Special Forces and Ranger tabs, Master Blaster jump wings, Special Operations SCUBA badge, two Combat Infantryman badges, and three Bronze Stars mean.

    6
  9. JohnMcC says:

    @dmichael: If I could humbly suggest — public hanging?

    5
  10. Mu Yixiao says:

    So…. let me see if I have this right.

    The people in charge should there be a biological attack from a foreign hostile… can’t avoid getting “the flu”*?

    * as per their propaganda.

    4
  11. CSK says:

    @Mikey:
    Whoever it is claims to have served aboard the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter. I have no idea in what capacity. Or if.

  12. Jen says:

    @Hal_10000: Exactly this. The wedding in Maine that became a clustered outbreak ended up causing 8 deaths, none of whom attended the wedding.

    The cavalier attitude of the President’s is completely irresponsible.

    2
  13. Scott says:

    According to Worldometer, there has been 98 military deaths so far (68+thousand cases). VA has recorded 3510 deaths. This doesn’t begin to measure the impact on readiness, costs, or any number of issues associated with this virus.

  14. Mikey says:

    @CSK: That makes it worse, because the imbecile should know better.

    Between my active military service and the work I’ve done since, I have spent the last 34 years continuously employed in America’s defense, and the last couple years have me asking if I’ve wasted my life.

    2
  15. Kathy says:

    Good thing there isn’t a war on, right?

    Oh. Wait.

    1
  16. Scott says:

    @Mikey:

    Between my active military service and the work I’ve done since, I have spent the last 34 years continuously employed in America’s defense, and the last couple years have me asking if I’ve wasted my life.

    As someone who has 40 years of the same, the answer is “No, you haven’t”.

    You need to rewatch this every now and then.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6C8SX0mWP0

    3
  17. CSK says:

    @Mikey:
    No. You have not wasted your life.

    2
  18. Jen says:

    @Mikey: You have not, and thank you, sincerely, for your service.

    2
  19. Tony W says:

    I have said it 1000 times – our health care system in this country is a national security threat.

    When the Joint Chief’s housekeeper can bring him a disease like COVID from a single interaction with a fast-food worker who has no access to medical care, it’s a short path to disaster.

    Capitalism is a wonderful thing, but it is a terrible way to run a health care system.

    7
  20. Kathy says:

    On other COVID-19 news, while many (most) countries are doing far better than the US at controlling the virus, a lot are spiking case numbers at alarming rates, too. Too many to find a common factor quickly, but I speculate it’s partly reopening, partly people getting careless or reckless due to pandemic fatigue.

    And according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, Mexico had a HUGE spike of over 27,000 cases yesterday. that’s like three times the previous record back in August. I’ve no idea whether suddenly tests ramped up (yesterday it was under 2.1 million since the start of the pandemic, ludicrous), or whether the small proportion of those who get tests suddenly drew a super-super-super-spreader event or something. It plainly makes no sense. A similar spike in the UK was preceded by a huge jump i case numbers,a nd followed by another large increase, so I guess we’ll know more tomorrow.

    On top of that, reinfection cases have scientists baffled. The good news is confirmed reinfections are very, very few.

    A vaccine had better work.

    1
  21. al Ameda says:

    @Tony W:

    Capitalism is a wonderful thing, but it is a terrible way to run a health care system.

    In America we treat health care as a commodity and not as a social good. The health care system we have chosen is one that rations (yes, rations) care and quality of care by income class.

    Our health care system is, by nearly every measure, incredibly inefficient and wasteful. On a per capita basis were are by far the most expensive system in the advanced world, and we have many important health outcome measures that are lower than those of our European and Asian counterparts. Plus, we still have millions of uninsured citizens.