US military leaders are in coronavirus quarantine after meeting at the Pentagon’s ‘Tank’. Here’s what we know
In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s bombshell coronavirus diagnosis, you’ve likely heard about the White House Rose Garden ceremony that potentially became a “super spreader” event.
Now, attention has turned to the quarantining of American military leaders who attended a meeting at the Pentagon’s “Tank” briefing room last week.
When was the meeting held and who was there?
The meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was held on Friday, October 2 (local time).
Those in attendance included the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and National Guard.
The meeting also involved Admiral Charles W Ray, the vice-commandant of the Coast Guard. He has since tested positive for coronavirus.
Officials said it was at this meeting that most of the military leaders were exposed to Admiral Ray, but that he had also had other meetings with officials.
Has anyone else tested positive?
Yes, on Wednesday (local time), it was revealed that General Gary L Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Marine Corps said the service’s second-highest ranking officer was experiencing “mild symptoms” but that he was otherwise “feeling well”.
So far, none of the other top military leaders in the meeting — including General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — have tested positive.
But attendees have nevertheless been in self-quarantine since finding out about Admiral Ray’s diagnosis on Tuesday.
“We will continue to follow CDC guidance for self-quarantining and contact tracing,” Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.
Is this a worry for the US military?
Pentagon officials have been quick to stress that military preparedness has not been affected and that the nation’s armed services stand ready to defend the country.
But General Thomas’s positive test nevertheless raises worrying questions about the health of America’s top military leaders.
It has also stunned officials at the Pentagon. Top leaders there have largely remained free of the virus, although there have been several outbreaks across the active-duty force and the reserves around the nation and overseas.
Overall, more than 47,000 service members have tested positive for the virus, of whom 625 have been hospitalised and eight have died.
Do we know how Admiral Ray got infected in the first place?
No, it’s not known how Admiral Ray contracted COVID-19.
We do know he attended an event for Gold Star military families at the White House on September 27 that was hosted by Mr Trump and first lady Melania Trump.
Several senior military leaders, including General Milley, Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Army General James McConville and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, also attended the event, which honoured the families of service members who have died.
A number of the military officials who were there got COVID-19 tests late last week after Mr Trump and his wife both tested positive for the virus. According to officials, the military leaders tested negative at that time, and they will continue to be tested in the coming days.
What’s the latest with the White House?
At least 19 people who are close to Mr Trump have tested positive for coronavirus.
Some of them, including former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, attended the Rose Garden ceremony where Mr Trump named his nominee for the US Supreme Court vacancy.
But the US President has continued to play down the threat of coronavirus even after he contracted it himself.
Since receiving VIP care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Mr Trump has returned to the White House Rose Garden to record a video, saying that he wants “to get for you what I got” and make the experimental COVID-19 treatment he received free.
Mr Trump received an experimental antibody cocktail made by Regeneron through a “compassionate use” exemption. The safety and effectiveness of the drug have not yet been proven.
Why is that Pentagon room called ‘The Tank’, by the way?
The reason it’s called The Tank is that’s windowless, secure and designed for classified meetings.
It’s also known by the more bureaucratic — but maybe even more exciting and mysterious — name “Room 2E924”.
It was in that room in June 2017 that, according to Washington Post reporters Carol D Leonnig and Philip Rucker, Mr Trump told assembled American military leaders they were “a bunch of dopes and babies”.