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U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staf, meet with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon on Sept. 22. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The No. 2 Marine general, Gary Thomas, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a day after he and other senior military leaders began quarantining due to possible exposure to the virus.

Driving the news: Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military leaders, including Thomas, entered quarantine after Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard, tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, per the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

  • Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the Marine Corps said in a statement. He was experiencing mild symptoms and would remain in quarantine, the statement said.

The big picture: Republican senators, top White House aides and many of those closest to Trump in the administration have tested positive for the coronavirus following the president's diagnosis last Friday.

What they're saying: "We are aware that Vice Commandant Ray has tested positive for COVID-19 and that he was at the Pentagon last week for meetings with other senior military leaders," Defense Department spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement, per the Times.

  • "Out of an abundance of caution, all potential close contacts from these meetings are self-quarantining and have been tested this morning," he said.
  • "No Pentagon contacts have exhibited symptoms and we have no additional positive tests to report at this time."

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Thomas has tested positive.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

Updated Jan 15, 2021 - Health

The coronavirus variants: What you need to know

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New variants of the coronavirus circulating globally appear to increase transmission and are being closely monitored by scientists.

Driving the news: The highly contagious variant B.1.1.7 originally detected in the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if no measures are taken to control the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

Jan 15, 2021 - Health

CDC: Highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March

Health care providers work at triage tents outside Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Southern California. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the highly transmissible coronavirus variant first discovered in the U.K. will likely become the dominant strain in the U.S. this March if more steps aren't taken to mitigate the spread.

The state of play: Only about 76 people in a dozen states have been diagnosed with the the B.1.1.7 variant so far, according to the CDC, but experts warn there are likely more undetected cases. Although the variant is more contagious, it does not appear to be resistant to existing vaccines or cause more severe symptoms.