Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered American military commanders around the world to get explicit clearance before taking any action related to coronavirus so as not to contradict President Donald Trump's "messaging" about the disease, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Esper told Gen. Robert B. Abrams last week that "he wanted advance notice before General Abrams or any other commander made decisions related to protecting their troops" from coronavirus.
The concerns about coronavirus are particularly acute for Abrams, who oversees American forces stationed in South Korea.
Sources tell the Times that Abrams informed Esper that "he would try to give Mr. Esper advance warning," but warned that "he might have to make urgent health decisions before receiving final approval from Washington."
The goal of the initiative, according to the Times, is to avoid taking actions that might "run afoul of President Trump’s messaging" on coronavirus, as the president has repeatedly tried to downplay concerns about the dangers that the virus poses for both American citizens and the American economy.