The top general in charge of the National Guard tested positive for COVID-19 this week, the service announced Friday.
Gen. Dan Hokanson, 58, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for the virus after a trip to Europe visiting deployed Guardsmen and is now working remotely, a Guard spokesperson said.
The spokesman didn’t detail whether Hokanson was experiencing symptoms.
“All other members of the National Guard Bureau staff are continuing with their duties under the existing COVID protocols, and all continue to be tested, as required,” Wayne Hall, a Guard spokesperson, said in a statement.
Gen. John Raymond, the top general for the Space Force, also recently came into contact with “multiple individuals” who tested positive for COVID-19, an Air Force spokesperson told Military.com. The exposure was unrelated to any events Hokanson was at, and Raymond has not had a positive COVID-19 test, but is isolating and canceling some travel arrangements.
The news follows Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt filing a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration to dismiss the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for Guardsmen in his state. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin fired a warning shot to Stitt, and other Republican governors who may be considering rebuking the vaccine mandate, that Guardsmen who refuse inoculation will be denied pay and eventually be booted from continuing their service.
The National Guard Bureau reported 54.4% of Army National Guard and 88.4% of Air National Guard troops had been fully vaccinated as of Nov. 22. The Air National Guard’s deadline to be fully vaccinated was Thursday. The Army Guard has until June 2022.
Spokespeople for the Navy and Marine Corps said that their top officers hadn’t had close contact with either Hokanson or Raymond in recent weeks.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden unveiled his so-called “winter plan” to combat the newly emerged Omicron variant of the coronavirus. It is unclear if the new variant is more deadly than previous COVID-19 variants, which largely impacts those suffering from preexisting conditions such as obesity and diabetes, and can be especially relentless against the elderly. Biden’s plan largely includes doubling down on adult booster shots and vaccinations for kids ages 5 and older.
"It doesn't involve shutdowns or lockdowns, but widespread vaccinations, and boosters, and testing and a lot more," Biden said Thursday.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.