The White House said Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris counts as a “close contact” of President Biden after he tested positive for COVID-19.
A White House official confirmed the veep’s status hours after the administration announced she had tested negative for the coronavirus.
“There are no changes to her schedule,” the official added of Harris.
The CDC defines close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes “starting 2 days before the infected person developed symptoms.”
Harris and Biden were scheduled to receive a private intelligence briefing in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning. The two also greeted Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, when she visited the White House later that day.
Close contacts of infected individuals are expected to wear protective masks while at the White House.
Harris, 57, previously contracted COVID-19 in April and recovered after experiencing mild symptoms.
Thursday afternoon, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre side-stepped a question about contingency plans to transfer power to Harris if the 79-year-old president’s illness worsens.
“The President is — has mild symptoms, he’s able to do the business of the American people from the [White House] residence and that’s what matters right now,” she said.
Biden returned from Saudi Arabia around midnight Saturday and on Sunday attended a Catholic church service in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.
He had no public events on Monday and stayed out of public view Tuesday with the exception of a brief outdoor presentation of flowers to Zelenska.
Biden traveled to Massachusetts Wednesday for a global warming-focused event shortly before falling ill.
The predominant and highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 has a median incubation period of 3-4 days, according to the CDC.
White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said at a briefing Thursday that contact tracing would be done to warn people of possible exposure, not to find out who infected the president.
“Contact tracing’s for people in the last 48 hours who were — after he tested positive, so somebody met with the president a week ago, they would not be considered a close contact,” he said.
“Are we going to go looking a week ago to see who might have given — that’s not, I mean, no,” he added. “The purpose of contact tracing is to make sure that anybody who might have been exposed is so identified to prevent onward transmission.”
Jha also said, however, that the strain of the virus that infected Biden is being sequenced, which may provide additional information about how he may have caught it.
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