Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Is 2nd Top Military Leader to Contract COVID-19

Gen. Gary Thomas during his visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Gen. Gary Thomas, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps during his visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Oct. 30, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Luke Kuennen)

A Marine Corps four-star general is the second senior military leader in two days to test positive for COVID-19.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas has the virus, officials announced Wednesday night. Thomas was one of at least nine senior leaders who began self-quarantining Tuesday after the Coast Guard's vice commandant, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive for the illness this week.

Thomas has mild symptoms, but is otherwise feeling well, according to a Marine Corps statement. He will continue to quarantine at home.

"The Marine Corps is following established policies for COVID, per [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines, to include quarantine and contact tracing," the release states. "According to CDC guidelines, any Marine Corps personnel who were in close contact with the general will also quarantine."

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Marine officials did immediately respond to questions about how many personnel are affected.

Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said on Wednesday night that he was aware that Thomas tested positive, but said at this time "we have no additional senior leader positive test results to report."

"We will continue to follow CDC guidance for self-quarantining and contact tracing," Hoffman said in a statement.

After Ray tested positive this week, Thomas and eight other senior military leaders went into quarantine. That included Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley; Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday; Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown; Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John "Jay" Raymond; Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Daniel Hokanson; and Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command.

Thomas attended Pentagon meetings with Ray and other senior leaders last week. Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger was visiting the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth off the coast of Flamborough, England, according to a military news release.

Coast Guard officials say it's not clear where Ray contracted COVID-19. He and several military leaders, including Berger, Milley, McConville and Brown, attended a Sept. 27 Gold Star Families event at the White House. The Washington Post reported this week that masks weren't required at the event and social distancing was not enforced.

That event was one day after the Trump administration held an outdoor nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Several people at that event, including President Donald Trump, have since tested positive for COVID-19.

The commander in chief spent several days in the hospital being treated after his diagnosis.

When asked whether the Pentagon would stop sending its top senior leaders to the same events during the pandemic in the wake of the recent outbreaks, a defense official told this week only that the department continues following protocols it set in the spring.

"In April the department adopted guidelines for temperature checks, social distancing and wearing a mask when social distancing is not possible," the official said. "We continue to follow those guidelines."

The Marine Corps remains "operationally ready to answer the Nation's call," officials said on Wednesday. The service enforces temperature testing, social distancing and mask-wearing during the pandemic.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Military Leaders in Quarantine After Coast Guard's No. 2 Admiral Tests Positive for COVID-19


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