White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha refused to chastise Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday after hugging at least one person without wearing a mask despite being exposed to COVID this week -19 by President Biden.
Hours earlier, Harris had attended the National Urban League conference in Washington, where she removed her mask on stage and hugged Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin.
CNN reporter MJ Lee raised the issue during the daily White House briefing.
“Vice President Harris is a close contact of the President and CDC guidelines say that if you are a close contact, you want to wear a properly fitting mask when you are around other people,” Lee said. “She just attended a conference in DC and she hugged someone without a mask, also without a mask for most of that conversation. Would you have recommended that she keep your mask on, given that these are CDC guidelines?
Jha, who is leading the Biden administration‘s response to the coronavirus pandemic and is the public relations director for that effort, initially tried to plead ignorance.
“I haven’t been following the VP’s activities, so I don’t have anything specific to say about what she did,” Jha said. “I understand the VP is following CDC guidelines for close contacts. She was also recently infected, so within 90 days of a previous infection.”
Lee went on to say, “I guess she’s not following CDC guidelines, is she, if she hugs someone without a mask? I just wanted your clarification on this.
“The CDC guidelines are clear, but I think the problem is that I’m commenting on the vice president [when] I haven’t seen it or I don’t really know what happened if it’s very, very difficult,” Jha swerved again.
Washington Examiner reporter Katherine Doyle, however, pointed out to Jha that the basic facts about what Harris did were undisputed.
“She took off a mask and she kissed someone. You don’t have to see it. I mean, that’s what happened,” Doyle told Jha.
The coronavirus chief again shrugged off the matter, saying: ‘I didn’t see the hug. I don’t know how long the embrace lasted.
The Biden administration has previously urged strict adherence to CDC guidelines, encouraging members of the public to wear COVID-19 masks until the second year of the pandemic.