Vice President Kamala Harris Tests Positive for COVID, Has No Symptoms; Joe Biden not ‘close contact’

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, the White House announced, underscoring the persistence of the highly contagious virus even as the U.S. eases restrictions to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.

Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said neither President Joe Biden nor First Lady Jill Biden had been considered a “close contact” with Harris in recent days. Harris was scheduled to attend Biden’s Presidential Daily Brief Tuesday morning but did not attend, the White House said. Due to her travel plans, Harris last saw Biden on Monday April 18th.

The vice president returned Monday from a week-long trip to the west coast.

Harris has tested positive on both rapid and PCR tests but has “shown no symptoms,” the White House said. She will isolate at her home but will continue to work remotely and will only return to the White House if she tests negative for the virus.

Harris, 57, received her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine weeks before she took office and a second dose just days after Inauguration Day in 2021. She received a booster shot in late October and an additional one on April 1 booster vaccination. Fully vaccinated and boosted individuals have a high level of protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19, particularly the most common and highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Harris’ diagnosis comes a month after her husband, Doug Emhoff, recovered from the virus, as a wave of cases of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant spread through Washington’s political class, affecting Cabinet members, White House staffers and lawmakers, including the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, infected . Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., tested positive Tuesday, his office said.

Allen said Harris will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines “and the advice of her physicians.” It wasn’t immediately clear if she would be prescribed antiviral treatments.

The White House has implemented strict COVID-19 protocols for the president, vice president and their spouses, including daily testing for those expected to be in close contact with them. Biden is regularly tested on the advice of his doctor, the White House said.

After more than two years and nearly a million deaths in the US, the virus is still killing more than 300 people in the US every day, according to the CDC. The unvaccinated are at far greater risk of being more than twice as likely to test positive and nine times as likely to die from the virus than those who received at least a basic dose of the vaccines, the health agency said.

Harris’ diagnosis comes as the Biden administration takes steps to expand availability of the life-saving antiviral treatment for COVID-19, Paxlovid, reassuring doctors there is adequate care for people at high risk of serious illness or death from the virus.

Paxlovid, when given within five days of symptom onset, has been shown to result in a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths in patients most likely to develop serious illness.

In addition to her husband’s diagnosis, Harris was identified as a “close contact” after her communications director tested positive on April 6.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” with an infected person as staying 15 minutes or more with them in a 24-hour period. The CDC says a (person with “close contacts”) does not need to be quarantined if they have their vaccines up to date, but should wear a well-fitting mask around other people for 10 days after contact.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Vice President Kamala Harris Tests Positive for COVID, Has No Symptoms; Joe Biden not ‘close contact’

Dais Johnston

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