The White House coronavirus outbreak took another alarming turn today as it was revealed the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and other top military leaders are under quarantine after a senior Coast Guard official tested positive for the coronavirus.
Gen. Mark Milley and the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force have tested negative for the virus, but remain under quarantine as a precaution.
The head of U.S. Cyber Command, Gen. Paul Nakasone, was also among those quarantined.
All were under quarantine after Milley and other senior officials attended a White House event Sunday to honor ‘gold star’ families.
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump both were present.
Milley and other top DOD officials have received frequent tests after being at the White House Sunday.
Officials said the military leaders were working from home and this has not affected military readiness.
They also have huddled in the ‘Tank,’ a secure facility inside the Pentagon.
Up to 14 officials are believed to have been potentially exposed to the virus after meetings last week with the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Charles W. Ray, who has tested positive.
The officials were informed about the positive test on Monday.
It is not known how Ray contracted the virus, but it was not believed to be related to the outbreak affecting Trump and others at the White House.
The news took the proliferating White House coronavirus outbreak into a concerning new direction, with the nation’s national security and defense apparatus under threat.
The New York Times reported that Army chief of staff Gen. James C. McConville and other top military leaders are quarantining after being exposed to Adm. Charles Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, who tested positive for COVID-19.
The event honoring families of fallen troops, like many gatherings at the White House, did not feature masks or social distancing.
Recent protocal has been that people who might come into contact with the president are first given a rapid test for COVID-19.
Images released by the White House showed Trump up close with attendees, including children represented among ‘gold star’ guests.
The event for gold star families was an elaborate response to a brutal story in the Atlantic last month that quoted defense officials who said Trump referred to fallen troops as ‘suckers’ and losers.’
Gen. Milley last broke into the news after taking part in the president’s photo-op immediately after police used tear gas to clear out Lafayette Park across from the White House.
Milley said it was a ‘mistake’ and issued a blunt statement about the importance of protecting firewalls between military and civilian leaders.
‘I should not have been there,’ he said in a a prerecorded video commencement address to National Defense University. ‘My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics.’
CNN reported nine top officials in quarantine, and said all had tested negative.
Besides Milley they were Gen. John Hyten, vice chair of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. James Conville, the Army chief of staff, Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, Gen. Paul Nakasone, who heads cyber command.
Gen. Gary Thomas, assistant commandant of the Marines, Gen. Charles Brown, of the Air Force, Adm. Michale Gilday, chief of naval operations, and Gen. John Rahmond, Chief of Space Operations.
Nakasone, though not a member of the joint chiefs, fills a vital role in an election U.S. intelligence has warned is already featuring foreign interference efforts.
He participated in a video put out by the FBI Tuesday where Nakasone and FBI Director Chris Wray described joint efforts to protect U.S. elections.
As the number of officials linked to the White House and under quarantine grew, the U.S. Secret Service announced that it would not be sharing information about its own ranks.
‘For privacy and operational security reasons, the Secret Service is not releasing how many of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19, nor how many of its employees were, or currently are, quarantined,’ the Secret Service said.
The statement came days after Trump was criticized for taking a ride in an SUV to thank cheering supporters outside the Walter Reed hospital, while a driver and an agent who accompanied him in the front seat wore protective gear.