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U.S. Defense Secretary Austin tests positive for COVID-19, symptoms mild

Coronavirus Jan 03, 2022 02:10AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin attends a NATO Defence Ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday with mild symptoms and would attend meetings virtually as he quarantined at home for the next five days.

News of Austin's positive test comes after the Pentagon last week tightened restrictions at its headquarters over concern about the highly transmissible Omicron variant that has led to a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections throughout the world.

The military is faced with the challenge of maintaining military readiness for troops, often in close quarters on ships and planes.

Austin, who is fully vaccinated and received a booster in early October, said in a statement he last met President Joe Biden on Dec. 21, more than a week before he started experiencing symptoms.

"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 added.

Austin said he requested a test earlier on Sunday after having symptoms while at home on vacation. He was last at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Austin is one of the most senior members of President Joe Biden's administration to test positive for COVID-19.

In October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tested positive for the virus.

U.S. authorities registered at least 346,869 new coronavirus on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 rose by at least 377 to 828,562.

Austin said he planned to attend meetings virtually when possible and he would retain all authorities in running the Defense Department and overseeing military activities around the world.

His deputy, Kathleen Hicks, would represent him in some matters, he added.

"I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue," Austin said.

Roughly 98% of active-duty troops have received at the COVID-19 vaccine, which is now mandatory for them.

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalization due to a large number of coronavirus cases even as early data suggests the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe than other variants.

The Omicron variant was estimated to be 58.6% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of Dec. 25, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fauci added that the CDC will soon be coming out with a clarification on whether people with COVID-19 should test negative to leave isolation, after confusion last week over guidance that would let people leave after five days without symptoms.

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin tests positive for COVID-19, symptoms mild
 

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Comments (6)
Ja sui
Ja sui Jan 03, 2022 2:33AM ET
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Lol US getin in strong grip of virus n mrkts goin up n up. Cheap n free money at work
DrFunkenstein hayson
DrFunkenstein hayson Jan 02, 2022 10:53PM ET
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it's not about a virus, never was...
pcg upstate
pcg upstate Jan 02, 2022 9:50PM ET
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too woke
William Gatling
William Gatling Jan 02, 2022 9:02PM ET
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Jab didn't work
Anthony Cloud
Anthony Cloud Jan 02, 2022 9:02PM ET
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David David still living in denial....
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Jan 02, 2022 9:01PM ET
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One more who probably got the much more effective Omicron vaccine. A vaccine created naturally, such as Omicron, should be superior to man made vaccines. Gotta love evolutionary science.
Karl Kessler
Karl Kessler Jan 02, 2022 8:17PM ET
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Nice tie.
 
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