Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Touches Down in the Philippines Sporting Face Shield

Lloyd Austin Face Shield

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in the Philippines during his weeklong trip to East Asia on Thursday, wearing a face shield and mask as he exited the plane and greeted Filipino officials.

He also fist-bumped officials instead of shaking hands or bumping elbows.

Austin tweeted out footage of his arrival, with the caption: “Wheels down in the Philippines.”

Filipino military officials were also wearing face shields, but other U.S. military and civilian personnel seen in the footage were not.

Austin was not seen wearing a face shield during his previous stops in Singapore and Vietnam and his reason for doing so the Philippines remains unclear. He did, however, wear masks in both countries.

Austin is vaccinated against the Chinese coronavirus, according to a tweet he sent out on June 4.

According to a defense spokesperson after this report published:

The Secretary and his traveling party are wearing masks and face shields in accordance with health protection guidelines directed by the Philippine government in coordination with the U.S. Embassy. All DOD travelers observe appropriate CDC guidelines, in addition to health guidance as required by each host nation. As the Secretary has said, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our people, and that includes our partners and allies.

Austin landing in a face shield and mask comes one day after the Department of Defense ordered all personnel, civilian and military, to wear masks indoors at all installations, regardless of vaccination status, marking a reversal of its policy of allowing vaccinated individuals to refrain from masking.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week issued guidance that people wear masks indoors in areas of high transmissibility.

The Biden administration also this week issued a vaccine mandate for American federal employees, except for the military, which cannot be forced to take a vaccine that is under Emergency Use Authorization and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Pentagon is widely expected to mandate the vaccine once the FDA gives it approval, however. Pentagon officials have said there are discussions at senior levels to look at that option once the FDA approves the coronavirus vaccines.

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