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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tests positive for COVID-19

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, pictured in Seoul, South Korea, in early December, has tested positive for COVID-19.
Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, pictured in Seoul, South Korea, in early December, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has tested positive for COVID-19.

"I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave," Austin said in a statement late Sunday. "My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician's directions."

"In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days," he said.

Austin, 68, said that he is fully vaccinated and was boosted in October. He said that while he quarantines, he plans to continue with key meetings and discussions virtually, "to the degree possible" and that Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks would represent him as necessary.

He said that his staff had begun contact tracing and testing anyone who he'd been in contact with over the last week.

"My last meeting with President Biden occurred on Tuesday, December 21st, more than a week before I began to experience symptoms," Austin said. "I tested negative that very morning. I have not been in the Pentagon since Thursday, where I met briefly — and only — with a few members of my staff. We were properly masked and socially distanced throughout."

Austin is the second high-profile Biden administration Cabinet member to get COVID-19. In October, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also tested positive. At the time, Mayorkas said he was fully vaccinated and that his symptoms amounted to only "mild congestion."

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.