Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, just two days after he attended a major bill signing at the White House with hundreds of veterans advocates in attendance.
In a statement, McDonough said the illness was caught during a routine screening earlier in the day and his symptoms are mild. He plans to isolate at home, away from VA senior staff, for the next five days, in keeping with his physician’s recommendations.
“I have informed my leadership team of my positive test result,” he said. “To protect the safety of others, including our workforce and colleagues, I will attend key meetings and discussions virtually the rest of this week and early next week. I will retain all authorities [related to the secretary post].”
McDonough was on stage with President Joe Biden on Wednesday during an event marking the signing of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, which dramatically expanded benefits for military toxic exposure victims.
At the time, Biden was just two days removed from his own quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. McDonough wore a mask for the event, with the exception of when he delivered short remarks about the bill.
McDonough said he had tested negative earlier that morning. He is fully vaccinated against the virus.
“As I am fully vaccinated and ‘boosted,’ my physician expects my symptoms to be mild and my recovery swift, and I am grateful for that,” he said in the statement. “Vaccines work, and I continue to encourage everyone eligible for a booster shot to get one.”
More than 730,000 veterans have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the American pandemic in March 2020, and more than 22,600 have died from complications related to the virus.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.