This underscores the persistence of this highly contagious virus, even though the U.S. has eased restrictions in in an effort to restore pre-pandemic normalcy.
Kirsten Allen, Harris' press secretary, stated that neither Jill Biden nor President Joe Biden were considered "close contacts" with Harris in recent days. The White House stated that Harris was scheduled to attend Biden’s Tuesday morning Presidential Daily Brief, but was unable to attend. Due to their travel schedules Harris did not see Biden until Monday, April 18.
After a weeklong trip to West Coast, the vice president returned Monday.
The White House stated that Harris had positive results for both rapid and PCR testing, but she "has not exhibited any symptoms." Harris will be isolated at her home, but she will continue working remotely. She will only return to the White House if she is positive for the virus.
Harris, 57, was given her first Moderna COVID-19 vaccination weeks before she took office. She received a second dose days later, just days after Inauguration Day 2021. In October, she received a booster shot and in April, an additional booster. People who have been fully vaccinated or boosted are more likely to be protected against serious illness or death from COVID-19. This includes the most common, highly transmissible variant of the omicron.
Harris' diagnosis comes one month after Doug Emhoff, her husband, was diagnosed with the virus. A wave of cases of highly transmissible Omicron Subvariant has spread through Washington's political system, infecting members of Congress, White House staff , and lawmakers, including Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker. His office confirmed that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tested positive Tuesday.
Allen stated Harris would follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and the advice of her doctors. It is not yet clear if Harris will be prescribed antiviral treatment.
The White House has established strict COVID-19 protocols for the president, vice-president, and their spouses. This includes daily testing for anyone who is expected to be in close touch with them. According to the White House, Biden is regularly tested by his doctor.
The CDC reports that the virus continues to kill more than 300 people per day in the United States after more than two years of infected individuals and nearly a million deaths. According to the public health agency, those who are not vaccinated are more at risk than others. They are nine times more likely to contract the virus and have a higher chance of being able to test positive.
Harris was diagnosed at a time when the Biden administration is making steps to increase availability of the lifesaving COVID-19 antiviral therapy Paxlovid. This reassures doctors that there is plenty of treatment for those who are most at risk of serious illness or death due to the virus.
When administered within five days of the onset of symptoms, Paxlovid has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and death rates by 90% in patients most likely to develop severe illness.
Harris was also diagnosed with her husband's disease. Harris was also identified as a "close friend" after Harris's communications director tested positive for the illness on April 6.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define "close contact" as any time a person has spent more than 15 minutes with an infected individual within a 24-hour period. The CDC states that a person with close contact does not have to be quarantined if they are current on their vaccinations, but that they should wear a well-fitting mask for at least 10 days.