US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin tested positive for COVID-19

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One of the oldest members of Joe Biden’s administration to test positive for the virus

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WASHINGTON – US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday with mild symptoms and will virtually attend meetings as he quarantines himself at home for the next five days.

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News of Austin’s positive test comes after the Pentagon tightened restrictions on its headquarters last week over concerns over the highly transmissible variant of Omicron that has led to a surge in COVID-19 infections worldwide .

The military faces the challenge of maintaining the military readiness of troops, often aboard ships and airplanes.

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Austin, who is fully vaccinated and received a booster in early October, said in a statement that he last met President Joe Biden on December 21, more than a week before he began to feel pain. symptoms.

“As my doctor made clear to me, my fully vaccinated status – and the booster I received in early October – made the infection much milder than it otherwise would have been,” Austin added.

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Austin said he requested a test earlier on Sunday after showing symptoms while at home on vacation. He was last at the Pentagon on Thursday.

Austin is one of the oldest members of President Joe Biden’s administration to test positive for COVID-19.

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In October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tested positive for the virus.

U.S. authorities recorded at least 346,869 new coronaviruses on Saturday, according to a Reuters tally. The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 has increased by at least 377 to 828,562.

Austin said he plans to attend meetings virtually whenever possible and will retain all authority to run the Department of Defense and oversee military activities around the world.

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His assistant, Kathleen Hicks, would represent him in some cases, he added.

“I continue to encourage everyone who is eligible for a recall to get one. It’s still a preparation issue, ”said Austin.

About 98% of active-duty troops received the COVID-19 vaccine, which is now mandatory for them.

Leading U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Sunday there was still a risk of increased hospitalizations due to a large number of coronavirus cases, even though early data suggests the Omicron COVID- variant 19 is less serious than the other variants.

The Omicron variant was estimated to have 58.6% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of December 25, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fauci added that the CDC will soon release clarification on whether people with COVID-19 should test negative to leave isolation, after confusion last week over guidelines that would allow people to leave after five. days without symptoms.

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