At Least 4 Top Generals May Have Been Exposed Before Trump Tested Positive for COVID-19

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An Armed Forces Welcome Ceremony in honor of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley is held at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Arlington, Va., Sept. 30, 2019. (James Harvey/U.S. Army)

The defense secretary and several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff attended an event at the White House on Sunday, days before President Donald Trump, his wife and a top aide tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley; and the top Army, Air Force and Marine generals attended a Gold Star family event at the White House on Sunday, multiple defense officials told Military.com.

Trump announced on Twitter early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for COVID-19. The two were tested Thursday night after Hope Hicks, one of Trump's top aides, was discovered to have the illness after showing symptoms.

There have been no changes to military alert levels following the diagnosis, said Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman. But most of the military's most senior leaders are now undergoing tests to ensure they don't have the virus.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville took a COVID-19 test Friday, according to a defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He's showing no signs of the illness caused by the coronavirus, the official said, but was tested as a precaution Friday morning after the president announced he has the virus.

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Results are expected Friday.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles "CQ" Brown also attended the Sunday event, said Brooke Brzozowske, an Air Force spokeswoman. Brown tested negative before the event, the official said, and again yesterday in preparation for upcoming scheduled meetings at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

That test also came back negative, Brzozowske said.

Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger has been tested for COVID-19 several times over the last week, said Maj. Eric Flanagan, his spokesman.

"General Berger continues to remain vigilant in mitigating the spread of the virus both for himself and the entire Marine Corps," Flanagan added.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was also at the Gold Star families event, CNN reported Friday. Milley was at the Pentagon conducting his normal schedule, and is regularly tested for COVID-19, the outlet reported.

Esper, who's traveling abroad, has tested negative twice since Sunday, Hoffman said. The defense secretary will be tested again Friday as planned for continuation of his travel.

He will not be returning to the U.S. early, Hoffman added. Milley was tested this morning and was negative, he said.

"The Secretary, Mrs. Esper, Chairman Milley, and Mrs. Milley send their thoughts and prayers to the President and First Lady for a swift recovery," Hoffman said in a statement.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has not had any contact with the president or White House aides, said Cmdr. Nate Christensen, his spokesman. Gilday just returned to duty at the Pentagon this week after undergoing heart surgery.

Hoffman said Friday that the U.S. military stands ready to defend the nation and its interests.

"Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by [the president's] announcement," he said, adding that Esper is confident the White House's military medical team will ensure the commander in chief and first lady will "continue to receive the best medical care in the world."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: President Trump and First Lady Test Positive for Coronavirus

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