Pentagon boss gets Covid again
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for Covid-19 and is continuing to work from home while experiencing “mild symptoms,” he said in a statement released on Monday. The 69-year-old retired general had a bout with Covid in January, after receiving two vaccines and two boosters, but has not changed his mind on the Pentagon’s jab mandate for all members of the US military.
“Now, as in January, my doctor told me that my fully vaccinated status, including two booster shots, is why my symptoms are less severe than would otherwise be the case,” Austin said in his statement.
“Vaccinations continue to both slow the spread of [Covid]-19 and to make its health effects less severe. Vaccination remains a medical requirement for our workforce, and I continue to encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated and boosted,” he added.
Austin also noted that his last in-person contact with President Joe Biden was on July 29.
Cabinet officials have previously made sure to include this information to assure the American public that the 79-year-old president was not at risk. However, Biden himself tested positive for the coronavirus on July 21 – and again on July 30, just three days after he was first cleared by his physicians. He was eventually released from isolation on August 7, in time for a beach holiday in Delaware.
Austin imposed a jab mandate on all US troops last August, amid the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Though the Biden administration insists that the shots are both safe and effective, thousands of US troops have sued to challenge the mandate, with a federal judge giving the Air Force a temporary reprieve last month.
As of July 14, some 40,000 members of the Army National Guard and 22,000 reservists have had their pay and benefits blocked over refusing the vaccine mandate. Some 1,300 active duty Army troops and more than 1,000 Marines have been discharged for the same reason. Army records shared with the press last month showed that the service has granted only 29 medical exemptions and 19 religious exemptions from the mandate.