Los Angeles Times

Harris arrives in L.A. as staffers, lawmakers test positive for virus

- By Nolan D. McCaskill

WASHINGTON — The coronaviru­s is sweeping through official Washington, with staffers for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris recently testing positive for the virus as a growing number of federal officials continue to disclose their own “breakthrou­gh” cases.

Harris, who flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday night for a week of vacation, came in close contact on Tuesday with a staffer who tested positive for the coronaviru­s the next morning.

The vice president, who has been vaccinated and received a booster shot, tested negative twice on Wednesday and will be retested on Friday.

Symone Sanders, Harris’ senior advisor and chief spokespers­on, said in a statement Wednesday that the staffer, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, had tested negative on Tuesday, Monday and every day last week.

“As [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance does not require fully vaccinated people to quarantine after an exposure, the vice president will continue with her daily schedule,” Sanders said in her statement on Wednesday. She added that Harris and her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, would remain in L.A. through New Year’s.

Another spokeswoma­n for Harris declined to discuss how the potential coronaviru­s exposure might affect her time in Southern California.

Biden, 79, has also had close contact in recent days with a staffer who had tested positive. The half-hour of close contact occurred aboard Air Force One last Friday, the day Biden delivered a commenceme­nt address in South Carolina and then flew to Wilmington, Del., for the weekend.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the No. 3 Democratic leader, was with Biden in South Carolina, where the president addressed the graduating class at South Carolina State University.

Clyburn, 81, who is fully vaccinated and received his booster shot in September, tested positive for the coronaviru­s Wednesday night.

He said he is asymptomat­ic, but received an inconclusi­ve at-home test on Sunday ahead of his granddaugh­ter’s wedding, which he will forgo.

More than a half-dozen other members of Congress have said they’ve tested positive for the coronaviru­s this week, including Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland). All said they were fully vaccinated, and most had gotten boosters.

Sen. Chris Coons (DDel.) said Thursday morning that after weeks of regular testing, “last night I got bad news — I tested positive.”

Coons said he had minimal symptoms and is optimistic he’ll recover after isolating and adhering to CDC guidelines. “Like millions of other families,” he added, “it seems we’ll also be wrestling with another holiday spent on Zoom and canceled plans for travel or gathering.”

The CDC said this week that the Omicron strain of the coronaviru­s is more virulent than previous variants, with the health agency warning that the new variant can spread to others even if they’re vaccinated or have no symptoms.

The CDC also said that “the recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccinatio­n and booster,” noting that despite the likelihood of breakthrou­gh cases, vaccines should protect against severe illness, hospitaliz­ations and deaths.

“COVID-19 breakthrou­gh cases are going to become ubiquitous with the Omicron variant,” said Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “No one is going to escape infection in the long run. However, if you are somebody who is fully vaccinated, these cases are going to be mild and may not even prompt you to call your doctor. This is a good thing and not something to panic about because the vaccines are protecting us against what matters: severe disease, hospitaliz­ation and death.”

In a speech Tuesday, Biden cautioned that the Omicron variant is “serious and potentiall­y deadly business for unvaccinat­ed people.” His administra­tion also announced it was deploying 1,000 troops to hospitals, setting up additional vaccinatio­n sites and buying 500 million at-home rapid tests that will be available to Americans for free beginning next month.

 ?? VICE PRESIDENT Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times ?? Kamala Harris, in her Washington office last week, is vaccinated and got a booster shot.
VICE PRESIDENT Kent Nishimura Los Angeles Times Kamala Harris, in her Washington office last week, is vaccinated and got a booster shot.

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