Lloyd Austin
Lloyd Austin REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tested positive for COVID-19, he announced on Sunday.

Austin, who has been vaccinated and received a booster shot, said in a statement he would quarantine for five days.

“I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave,” said the statement. “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,” added Austin.

“I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result, as well as the President. My staff has begun contact tracing and testing of all those with whom I have come into contact over the last week,” he continued.

Austin noted that his last meeting with President Joe Biden occurred on December 21 and that he had tested negative that 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,” he said.

“As my doctor made clear to me, my fully vaccinated status — and the booster I received in early October — have rendered the infection much more mild than it would otherwise have been. And I am grateful for that,” wrote Austin.

The Defense Secretary becomes the latest top official in the US to have tested positive for COVID-19.

In late September, State Department spokesperson Ned Price tested positive for COVID-19 after experiencing symptoms.

Before testing positive, Price had been in close contact with Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his meetings at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Blinken tested negative at the time.

In late October, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID-19. Psaki, who is vaccinated and had mild symptoms, returned to work after a 10-day quarantine following a negative test.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is vaccinated against COVID-19, tested positive for the virus several weeks before that and self-isolated at home.

Last month, Biden tested negative for COVID-19 after having close contact with a White House staffer who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Days later, Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for COVID-19 after a staff member with whom she came in close contact tested positive for the virus.

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