• Sun. Mar 26th, 2023


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Vice President Harris Tests Positive for Coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, becoming the latest highest-ranking official in Washington to be infected and raising new concerns about President Biden’s potential exposure as the virus tears through his administration.

The vice president’s office said she tested positive on both rapid and P.C.R. tests and would stay away from the White House until she tests negative, working instead from the vice president’s official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory. She had not been in close proximity to Mr. Biden for an extended period in recent days, her office said.

“She has exhibited no symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the vice president’s residence,” Kirsten Allen, the vice president’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “She has not been a close contact to the president or first lady due to their respective recent travel schedules.”

Ms. Harris, 57, is the latest Washington official to contract the virus recently in an outbreak that has much of the capital worried about the spreading risk. Among others at the highest reaches of government to be infected this month was Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meaning that the top two successors to the presidency have been infected.

The vice president’s positive tests renewed concerns about Mr. Biden, who at 79 is the oldest person sworn into the presidency and in an age group that is typically considered more vulnerable to the virus. While the vice president’s office emphasized that she had not been “a close contact” to Mr. Biden lately, her infection reinforces the potential for his exposure as people who work with him increasingly test positive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a close contact as someone who spends at least 15 minutes within six feet over a 24-hour period. The White House is currently contact tracing to determine who Ms. Harris may have been that near in recent days other than the president. She returned to Washington on Monday from a trip to California.

Ms. Harris received her second booster shot on April 1, three days after federal regulators authorized a second dose of the vaccine for people 50 and older. It takes about a week to boost the immune system after a shot. Mr. Biden also received a second booster shot, in late March.

Ms. Harris went to her office at the White House on Tuesday morning and took a rapid antigen test as part of the regular protocol for the president and vice president. When it came back positive, she then took a P.C.R. test, which also came back positive. At that point, she left the White House and returned home. Her motorcade was heard heading back to the vice president’s residence sometime before 11 a.m.

Doug Emhoff, Ms. Harris’s husband, tested positive for the virus in mid-March. At the time, Ms. Harris was forced to back out of an event with the president, though she continued to test negative. Mr. Emhoff told McClatchy News last week that he isolated from his wife for 10 days while infected, staying in an upstairs room and having food brought to him up there.

The spate of infections in the upper reaches of Washington comes amid the spread of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant known as BA.2, and serves as a reminder that the pandemic endures even as officials seek to pivot from restrictions. Ms. Pelosi and two cabinet members, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, all tested positive this month.

Mr. Garland and Ms. Raimondo were among several officials testing positive who had recently attended the Gridiron Club dinner, a black-tie affair where journalists, administration officials and lawmakers mingle.

Ms. Harris was not at the dinner, but her communications director, Jamal Simmons, attended and tested positive afterward.

At the time, Ms. Allen, Ms. Harris’s press secretary, said in a statement that the vice president would continue with her public schedule but follow guidance from the C.D.C. for those who have been in close contact with someone infected. For those up-to-date on their shots, guidelines advise wearing a mask for 10 days after exposure and testing regularly.

The White House has repeatedly emphasized that it maintains stricter measures than the C.D.C. advises.