A US Marine has become the first confirmed carrier of the coronavirus within the Pentagon’s walls, with the US military announcing that a serviceman has gone into self-isolation after testing positive this week.
The officer’s test for Covid-19 came back positive earlier this week, Captain Monica Witt, a spokesman for the US Marine Corps, confirmed Wednesday, according to Defense One.
The Marine is believed to have contracted the deadly illness sweeping through all 50 American states from his spouse, who was displaying flu-like symptoms. Assigned to the plans, policy and operations office of the Marine Corps headquarters, the officer last set foot into the Pentagon building on March 13, and has since been in self-isolation awaiting the outcome of his test.
Once he started feeling unwell himself, the Marine “contacted his assigned medical facility,” Witt said, noting that the infected officer’s workplace has been disinfected.
A “thorough” investigation was launched to determine the officer’s recent contacts, as he could have unwittingly exposed others to the virus that has already infected over 66,000 people in the US alone.
While the Marine has become the first known coronavirus case permeating the US Defense Department’s HQ, it might not be the last, since several other staffers have yet to receive their results.
One of those Covid-19 suspects is an employee of the Pentagon’s National Military Command Centre – frequently referred to as the ‘war room’ – from where a nuclear strike can be launched, among other things.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper further restricted access to the Pentagon building, raising its health protection status to the second highest level. Although the flow of people into the cornerstone of the US defense complex has dwindled, Defense One reported that some 30 percent of its employees still show up to work, citing an internal briefing.
The US military has sounded the alarm over the rapid spread of the virus and its potential to undermine combat readiness. The viral threat has already brought most US overseas operations to a standstill, with Esper ordering all American troops to halt all travel for up to 60 days on Wednesday, except in Afghanistan, where the drawdown of the US contingent continues.
The pandemic also dealt a heavy blow to NATO’s ‘Defender Europe 2020’ war games exercise, which was supposed to feature some 20,000 American soldiers, with the bulk of the exercise set for April and May.
While the drill was not called off altogether, US participation was cut “drastically” and the exercise itself – once touted as the biggest transfer of US soldiers to Europe in over 25 years – has been scaled back significantly.
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