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Pic: People in hazmat suits meet Blinken’s plane over positive COVID test

Lance Cpl. Luis Da Luz, a hazardous material (HAZMAT) entry team technician with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jake M.T. McClung)
December 15, 2021

People wearing hazmat suits were waiting on the tarmac for Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s plane on Wednesay after a member of the press corps tested positive for COVID-19 following a short trip overseas.

“Update from Blinken’s plane: We just landed on our next stop. These are the type of people who start approaching your plane after someone tests positive for corona in the secretary’s entourage (photo by @humeyra_pamuk),” The Washington Post’s John Hudson tweeted, along with a photo of the absurd scene.

Blinken was scheduled to fly to Thailand after traveling to the U.K., Indonesia and Malaysia, but the trip was cut short after the positive test. Neither the Secretary of State nor anyone on his staff tested positive for the virus, but the trip remained canceled “out of an abundance of caution,” the Washington Post reported.

“We learned this morning, through our routine PCR testing, that a member of our traveling press pool tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Kuala Lumpur,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in statement.

“The individual who tested positive will remain in isolation, and we will continue to adhere to and go beyond CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, including with our rigorous testing protocol, for the remaining traveling party.”

Price said Blinken showed “deep regret” to Thailand’s foreign minister that “he would not be able to visit Bangkok this week.”

“He explained that, in order to mitigate the risk of the spread of covid-19 and to prioritize the health and safety of the U.S. traveling party and those they would otherwise come into contact with, the secretary would be returning to Washington, D.C. out of an abundance of caution,” Price said.

Earlier this month, Blinken warned that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine and the U.S. has evidence of the plan. 

“We’re deeply concerned by evidence that Russia made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine,” Blinken said. “The plans include efforts to destabilize Ukraine from within, as well as large scale military operations.”

“Now we’ve seen this playbook before. In 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then, as now, they significantly increased combat forces near the border,” he continued. “Then, as now, they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify preplanned military action. We’ve seen that tactic again in just the past 24 hours. In recent weeks, we’ve also observed a massive spike, more than ten fold, in social media activity pushing anti-Ukrainian propaganda approaching levels last seen in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.”

“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade [Ukraine],” Blinken added.