“My doctor made it clear to me that my full vaccination status – and the booster I received in early October – made the infection much milder than it otherwise would have been. And I’m grateful for that, ”said Austin.
The Pentagon chief said he had notified President Joe Biden and other Defense Department officials of his positive test. Austin said he last met with Biden on December 21 and has not been at the Pentagon since Thursday.
He announced that he would be taking part in virtual meetings this week.
“Containing the spread of this virus, protecting our workforce, and ensuring my own speedy and safe recovery remain my priorities,” he said. “As far as possible, I plan to take part virtually in the coming week in the important meetings and discussions that are necessary to inform my awareness of the situation and my decision-making. I will keep all the authorities. “
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will represent him “in other matters as necessary”.
Austin is the newest Pentagon official to test positive for the coronavirus. Last month, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Dan Hokanson, tested positive.
Austin’s groundbreaking case comes as the Omicron variant rages across the US and has led to a sharp rise in Covid cases in the past few weeks.
Austin also repeated calls for DoD staff to receive the vaccine. The Pentagon has mandated the vaccine for troops, and the Pentagon chief noted that immunization against the virus is an issue for military readiness.
“The vaccines are working and will remain a military medical necessity for our workforce,” Austin said. “I continue to encourage anyone eligible for a booster to get one. This remains a problem of readiness. “