By Mike Stone and Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Seven U.S. Department of Defense staff who traveled last week to multiple American bases, including Indo-Pacific Command on Hawaii, have tested positive for COVID-19, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
The staff, which consisted of civilian and military personnel, traveled to bases in Michigan, Colorado, Hawaii, California, and Nebraska as part of Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks' visit to the United States' bases and commands, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. Hicks tested negative.
Hicks was touring American bases as the Biden administration's 2023 budget takes shape. The Defense Department hopes to focus budget dollars toward a military that can deter China and Russia.
The staff had been vaccinated and tested for coronavirus exposure before the trip. Kirby said the staff who tested positive following last week's travel were in quarantine. He added that the Pentagon was contacting all hotels, bases and other personnel who may have come in contact with the travelers.
During a visit to Schriever Space Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Hicks saw a simulated space training exercise https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/us-space-force-holds-war-game-test-satellite-network-under-attack-2021-12-14, "Space Flag," hosted by U.S. forces.
During the stop in Hawaii, military commanders demonstrated a software tool https://www.reuters.com/world/china/us-builds-new-software-tool-predict-actions-that-could-draw-chinas-ire-2021-12-15 they have built to predict how the Chinese government would react to American actions in the region, such as military sales, U.S.-backed military activity and even congressional visits to hot spots like Taiwan.
Indo-Pacific Command oversees all U.S. military operations in and around the vast Pacific Ocean and South Asia.
All staff on the trip followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 guidelines, "including the stringent wearing of masks and social distancing where and when possible," Pentagon spokesman Kirby said.
(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; writing by Susan Heavey; editing by Giles Elgood and Jonathan Oatis)