Vice President Harris has tested positive for COVID-19
Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House announced Tuesday.
Harris has exhibited no symptoms and will isolate at home.
"She has not been a close contact to the President or First Lady due to their respective recent travel schedules," the White House said. "She will follow CDC guidelines and the advice of her physicians. The Vice President will return to the White House when she tests negative."
Her office said Tuesday night that she was taking Paxlovid, an antiviral drug which reduces the risk of COVID hospitalization by 90%.
Harris spent last week in California, and returned to Washington Monday night, so she had not met with President Biden in person in recent days.
Like Biden, Harris had been cautious about the virus, masking indoors and minimizing large gatherings. The White House dropped most of those precautions this spring, and since then, has seen several cases, amid a larger uptick in Washington, D.C.
Harris' positive test does have one immediate short-term political ramification: the Senate is rescheduling at least one nomination vote set for Tuesday because she wouldn't be available to break a 50-50 tie.
Harris is the highest-profile U.S. leader to contract the coronavirus since former President Donald Trump in 2020
The diagnosis comes weeks after her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, tested positive. And earlier this month, more than a dozen attendees of the annual Gridiron dinner — including Jamal Simmons, Harris' communications director — were known to have tested positive for COVID-19. At that time, Attorney General Merrick Garland also tested positive, as well as Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Reps. Adam Schiff and Joaquin Castro. All were guests at the dinner. Harris did not attend it.
The COVID-19 diagnosis makes Harris the highest-profile U.S. leader to contract the coronavirus since former President Donald Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the final month of the 2020 presidential campaign.
Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is vaccinated and boosted, announced she had tested positive.
Harris is vaccinated and twice boosted
Harris was fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, and has since been boosted twice — the best precautions to minimize the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID, said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator.
"We have a very, very contagious variant out there. It is going to be hard to ensure that no one gets COVID in America," Jha told reporters at the White House.
Jha said he did not know whether Harris would be taking therapeutic drugs, like Paxlovid, in light of her diagnosis. "That's a conversation that she's having with her physician," he said.
Biden does COVID 'risk assessments' of events he wants to attend
The White House takes extra steps to test people who come in close proximity to Biden and Harris.
Harris' case raises the specter that Biden could also get COVID, particularly now that he is traveling more often and attending large events. This weekend, he plans to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner as well as a funeral in Minnesota for former Vice President Walter Mondale.
"Of course it is possible that the president, like any other American could get COVID," Jha said, noting Biden, too, is vaccinated and twice boosted.
Biden and his advisers — including his doctors — make "risk assessments" about attending events, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who noted he is spending more time traveling the country than he did earlier during the pandemic.
The White House does not expect to change any of its protocols in light of Harris' case, Psaki said.