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The top-ranked military officer in the United States is warning adversaries that there has been no letup in the country's defenses even though he and other high-ranking officers have been forced to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus.
In a message shared Thursday on Twitter, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley said the quarantine was having "no impact" on the Pentagon's ability to defend the nation or its allies.
"America is capable and ready," Milley said in the statement. "The Joint Chiefs and I remain in constant communication while in quarantine and the chain of command remains the same."
Milley, along with Vice Chairman General John Hyten and the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Space Force, began self-quarantining earlier this week, "out of an abundance of caution," according to the Pentagon, after learning another top military official, U.S. Coast Guard Vice Commandant Admiral Charles Ray, had come down with COVID-19.
Officials said Ray tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday, followed by Marine Corps Assistant Commandant General Gary Thomas, who tested positive Tuesday.
Officials said all the military officers, along with National Guard Bureau Chief General Daniel Hokanson, Cyber Command Chief General Paul Nakasone, and lower-ranking members of the Joint Staff took part in meetings last week at the Pentagon.
The Pentagon said it was unclear how Ray, who began experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend, was exposed to the coronavirus.
"From the available data that I have, the senior-most leaders of the department are following and have followed all of the protocols to keep themselves safe and their staff safe," Lieutenant General Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, told reporters Thursday.
"What this really shows is despite all those best practices that we think that we know about how to try to contain this particular virus, it isn't 100% effective," Place said. "It's just reinforcing that we have to continue to stay vigilant at a time where complacency becomes an even greater risk factor across the world, really, but in particular for us across America."
Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior defense officials have been tested frequently since Sept. 27, when they attended a White House reception for Gold Star families of fallen troops. Both President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were at that event and tested positive for coronavirus later in the week.
VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.