Displaying Minor Symptoms, SecDef Tests Positive for COVID-19

January 3, 2022Dustin Jones
Secretary of Defense

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivers the keynote address during the 2021 Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Dec. 4, 2021. DOD photo by Chad J. McNeeley.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced Sunday morning that he had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Lloyd announced in a statement posted on Twitter that he requested a test Sunday, Jan. 2, after he experienced mild symptoms while home on leave. After testing positive, Lloyd will quarantine at home for five days in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Austin intends to attend meetings virtually throughout the week and will retain all of his authority, but Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will represent Austin as needed, the news release said.

Austin informed President Joe Biden and his leadership team of his positive test, and staff have already begun contact tracing. It’s been nearly two weeks since the secretary met with the president, which was more than a week before Austin first experienced symptoms. He had tested negative that morning. 

secretary of defense covid
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a memorandum Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, saying National Guardsmen would be docked pay if they did not follow the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase.

The defense secretary was fully vaccinated and had received a COVID-19 booster in early October. According to the release, his doctor said Austin’s infection would have been significantly worse had he been unvaccinated. 

“The vaccines work and will remain a military medical requirement for our workforce,” Austin said. “I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one. This remains a readiness issue.”

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Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones

Dustin Jones is a former senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine covering military and intelligence news. Jones served four years in the Marine Corps with tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He studied journalism at the University of Colorado and Columbia University. He has worked as a reporter in Southwest Montana and at NPR. A New Hampshire native, Dustin currently resides in Southern California.

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