Two positive COVID tests on trip with Secretary of State Antony Blinken were not disclosed

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Three instances of COVID-19 upended Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s multi-nation trip this week  — together with two beforehand undisclosed instances amongst members of the Air Force flight crew. On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed the extra two positive instances amongst its personnel in response to inquiries from CBS News.

“Both aircrew members were fully vaccinated. Neither had come into close contact with the Secretary of State or Senior Staff,” mentioned Air Force spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder.  “One air crew member is asymptomatic, while the other is experiencing mild symptoms.”

At least one Air Force crew member examined positive for COVID-19 sooner or later earlier than a civilian passenger — a member of the touring press corps — additionally examined positive and the trip was reduce quick, in response to a senior State Department official. 

Ryder would not disclose the present location of the crew members however mentioned each are outdoors the U.S. and following “host nation protocols.” It is unclear in the event that they acquired positive take a look at leads to the identical nation, however a number of individuals acquainted with the state of affairs inform CBS News not less than one of the flight crew members examined positive in Indonesia. The journalist, who acquired a positive take a look at outcome after leaving Indonesia and touchdown in Malaysia, stays there in isolation.

“We have nothing further to announce at this time,” State Department Deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter mentioned throughout a Friday briefing when requested if anybody else on the trip, along with the member of the media, had examined positive for the virus.

The secretary’s finish of the year, round-the-world tour initially included stops within the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Hawaii. But on Wednesday, after the secretary met with officers in Malaysia, his spokesperson Ned Price gave an on-the-record assertion to touring reporters {that a} journalist of their celebration had acquired a positive PCR take a look at outcome. A subsequent written assertion mentioned the secretary would cancel conferences in Thailand and return to Washington out of “an abundance of caution.” Neither assertion talked about the 2 positive take a look at outcomes among the many crew.

“At no time on the trip were the Secretary or his senior staff deemed to be close contacts of anyone who tested positive for COVID-19,” a State Department spokesperson mentioned when requested about different positive instances on the aircraft. “Throughout the trip, we far exceeded CDC guidelines in terms of our testing and mitigation measures.”

The State Department additionally mentioned it elevated social-distancing, restricted in-flight meals service and notified anybody in shut contact inside hours of “the identification of a positive case.”  

“Every member of the traveling party was required to take at least 8 COVID-19 tests over the span of the 7-day trip,” a spokesperson advised CBS News, including that each one division workers have acquired damaging PCR tests upon their return. 

But Department of Defense personnel are not subjected to the identical rigorous testing regime, a State Department official with direct information of the state of affairs advised CBS News. The official mentioned navy crews may receive waivers to keep away from having to check in every nation and are typically solely examined at the start and finish of journeys.

“All Air Force aircrew members supporting overseas DV travel are tested before flights departing the U.S., on the ground in every country that requires testing, and upon returning to the United States,” Ryder mentioned when requested about testing protocols for the aircrew.

In addition to working the gear, Air Force crew members normally greet reporters and authorities officers as they board the government-owned Boeing jets, serve drinks and put together meals for passengers, together with the secretary. The crew relaxation seats are in the identical cabin because the press, close to the again of the aircraft. Media retailers are later billed market charges for the flights and meals. 

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