Senior Defense Department official Anthony Tata tested positive for COVID-19 this week after an infected foreign official toured the Pentagon — hobnobbing with the upper echelons of the US military, including the defense secretary and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Tata, a retired Army brigadier general, is the acting undersecretary of defense for policy, one of the top advisers to acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller. His illness may hamper implementation of President Trump’s remaining policies, which include a troop drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As of Friday, Tata, 61, has held the role just 10 days after being elevated amid a shakeup with Trump’s post-election firing of Secretary Mark Esper.
The virus apparently reached the Pentagon during visits from Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis. The dignitary made use of two visits — last Friday and Monday — to greet Miller as well as Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, Navy Secretary Ken Braithwaite and Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett. He later tested positive for the serious respiratory bug.
“Minister Karoblis visited the Pentagon on Nov. 13, 2020, where he met with multiple senior leaders, including Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a Thursday statement.
“On that day he also met with the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force, and Anthony Tata, Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. On Monday, Nov. 16, the minister met with the Secretary of the Navy. All have been tested since their meetings. As a result of the embassy notification, Mr. Tata was tested today and has tested positive for COVID-19 on two successive tests. He will isolate at home for the next 14 days in accordance with Center for Disease Control protocols.”
Miller and the Army, Navy and Air Force secretaries won’t quarantine themselves, Hoffman said.
“As CDC COVID mitigation guidelines were followed during the Acting Secretary’s bilateral meeting with the minister, as well as meetings with Mr. Tata, Acting Secretary of Defense Miller is not quarantining,” Hoffman said.
“Similarly, each of the Service Secretaries are not quarantining based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines. We will continue to evaluate conditions, take appropriate preventative measures, and undertake additional necessary testing.”
New cases of the virus are surging across the US, with new daily counts nearing 200,000. Since March, the virus has infected 11.7 million Americans and killed more than 252,000. The drug company Pfizer is expected to apply Friday for emergency authorization for a vaccine candidate, with officials vowing rapid distribution of millions of doses.
COVID-19 has recently ravaged the White House — infecting Trump and many senior aides last month — and members of Congress. Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, 87, and Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, 67, tested positive this week.