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 United States eases restrictions in a bid to return to pre-normalcy. -pandemic. Neither President Biden nor First Lady Jill Biden were considered “close contacts” of Vice President Harris in recent days, said Kirsten Allen, the vice president’s press secretary.
Vice President Harris was scheduled to attend President Biden‘s daily presidential briefing on Tuesday morning, but was not present, the White House said. She had returned Monday from a week-long trip to the West Coast. The last time she saw President Biden was Monday, April 18.
“I have no symptoms and will continue to self-isolate and follow CDC guidelines,” Vice President Harris tweeted. “I’m grateful to be both vaccinated and boosted.”
After consulting with her doctors, Vice President Harris, 57, was prescribed and is taking Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill, her office announced Tuesday evening. The drug, when given within five days of the onset of symptoms, has been shown to lead to an approximately 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths in patients most at risk of serious illness.
President Biden phoned the vice president on Tuesday afternoon to make sure she “has everything she needs” while working from home, the White House said.
Vice President Harris 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 January 2021. She received a booster in late October and a additional reminder on April 1.
Fully vaccinated and boosted people have a high degree of protection against serious illness and death from COVID-19, especially against the more common and transmissible omicron variant.
Her 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, infecting Cabinet members. , White House staffers and lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
US Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, both Democrats, tested positive on Tuesday.
Ms Allen said Vice President Harris would follow the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and the advice of her doctors”.
The White House has strict COVID-19 protocols in place around the president, vice president and their spouses, including daily testing for those expected to be in close contact with them. President Biden is tested regularly on the advice of his doctor, the White House said, and last tested negative on Monday.
“We have a very, very contagious variant there,” White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Aashish Jha said Tuesday. “It’s going to be difficult to make sure no one gets COVID in America. It’s not even a political objective. He said the administration’s goal was to make sure people don’t get seriously ill.
Dr Jha added that despite precautions, it is possible that President Biden himself will come down with the virus at some point.
“I wouldn’t say it’s just a matter of time, but of course it’s possible that the president, like any other American, could get COVID,” he said. “There is nothing 100%.”
Ms Psaki said she “would not expect” any changes to White House protocols.
After more than two years and nearly a million deaths in the United States, the virus still kills more than 300 people a day in the United States, according to the CDC. Unvaccinated people are at much higher risk, more than twice as likely to test positive and nine times more likely to die from the virus than those who have received at least a primary dose of vaccines, according to the health agency. public.
Vice President Harris’ diagnosis comes as the Biden administration moves to expand availability of the life-saving Paxlovid, reassuring doctors that there is an adequate supply for those at high risk of serious illness or death. by the virus.
In addition to her husband’s diagnosis, Vice President Harris has been identified as a “close contact” after her communications director tested positive on April 6.
The CDC defines “close contact” with an infected person as spending 15 minutes or more with them in a 24-hour period. The CDC says people with “close contact” don’t need to quarantine if they’re up to date on their vaccines, but should wear tight-fitting masks around other people for 10 days after contact.