The nation's top military leaders went into self-quarantine on Tuesday, after the U.S. Coast Guard said its No. 2 official tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend - a disclosure that only adds to a sense of uncertainty about operations at the highest levels of government, as a wave of infections hits senior White House staff, several Republican senators and the president himself.
Coast Guard vice commandant, Admiral Charles Ray, tested positive following a top-level meeting late last week with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including its chairman, Army General Mark Milley, Trump's top military advisor.
Later on Tuesday, two officials said the Marine Corps commandant did not meet with Ray last week and, therefore, was not self-isolating.
U.S. defense officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, stressed that the military's top brass - with the exception of Admiral Ray - had all tested negative so far and were still carrying out their duties.
At the White House, which - so far - has reported at least 16 cases among staff and recent visitors to the complex - press secretary Kayleigh McEnany - who is also infected with the virus - said on Tuesday that the rise in COVID-19 cases at the executive mansion is not disrupting the functioning of the U.S. government, after multiple news outlets reported on Tuesday that two more White House staffers tested positive for the virus, a day after the return of President Donald Trump, who is still battling the highly contagious disease.
White House physician Sean Conley said in a statement on Tuesday that Trump was doing "extremely well" and that "he had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms" of COVID-19, after returning from a three-day stay at Walter Reed military hospital.
TRUMP: "Don't be afraid of it."
In a widely criticized video message shot immediately after his return to the White House, Trump stressed that he felt better than he had 20 years ago after receiving world-class treatment from a team of doctors, and urged American citizens not to fear the deadly disease, which has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States - the highest death toll of any country.
Subsequent social media posts from the president were taken down on Tuesday, after Facebook and Twitter said Trump violated their rules against coronavirus misinformation by suggesting that COVID-19 was just like the flu.