Top Pentagon official tests positive for coronavirus

FILE - This March 27, 2008 file photo shows the Pentagon in Washington. In a first for the Pentagon's push to develop defenses against intercontinental-range ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, a missile interceptor launched from a U.S. Navy ship at sea hit and destroyed a mock ICBM in flight on Tuesday, officials said. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File) (Charles Dharapak, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – A Pentagon official installed in a top policy job last week has tested positive for COVID-19, the Pentagon said Thursday, just days after he met with the Lithuanian defense minister, who had contracted the virus.

Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesperson, said Anthony Tata, who is serving as the undersecretary of defense, was tested Thursday after learning that Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis had tested positive. Tata and other senior defense leaders, including Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, all met with Karoblis either last Friday or Monday.

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Hoffman said the department is doing contact tracing and conducting rapid testing for those who came in contact with the delegation. Miller and other senior staff and a media contingent traveled Wednesday to meet with troops and leaders at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then flew out to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, off the coast of Virginia. Video of the visit showed Miller shaking hands and hugging people at Fort Bragg, and he met with sailors on the ship.

Tata is just the latest top Trump administration member to become infected. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tested positive after attending an election night party at the White House. Others who were at the party also tested positive, including White House political director Brian Jack, former White House aide Healy Baumgardner and Trump campaign advisers David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski said he believed he contracted the virus in Philadelphia while assisting the president’s election challenge there.

Trump himself was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October when he contracted the virus. Others in Trump’s orbit who have tested positive include his wife, Melania, his son Barron, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and advisers Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks.

There also was an outbreak at the Pentagon last month when Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, found out had he tested positive after meeting in the Pentagon with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps later also tested positive, and all the chiefs were forced to quarantine at home for at least 10 days.

Hoffman said in a statement that the department has recently “recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures — face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and virtual engagements among others.”

Hoffman said Miller and the service secretaries aren’t going to quarantine “based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines.”

Tata, a former Fox News commentator and retired one-star general, was moved into the top policy job just a few months after he failed to get through Senate confirmation because of offensive remarks he had made, including about Islam.

He is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy. James Anderson, who had been acting undersecretary, resigned last week, shortly after President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and named Miller the acting Pentagon chief.

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