Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for Covid-19

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for the coronavirus Tuesday, becoming the latest senior official in Washington to become infected amid renewed concerns about President Biden’s potential infection as the virus spreads through his administration.

Ms Harris received her test results shortly after returning to the White House after a few days in California and then left the West Wing without seeing Mr Biden isolating at the vice president’s residence. Although she usually sees the president on most weekdays when they are both in town, aides said she hasn’t been with him in person for eight days.

Two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, also tested positive Tuesday, depriving Democrats of a working majority to push through legislation or nominate candidates over the next few days. In a tie-breaking Senate, Democrats need every member plus the vice president’s casting vote to overcome uniform Republican opposition.

Senate Democrats hoped to approve several nominees this week, including Lisa D. Cook for Federal Reserve Governor and Alvaro Bedoya for FTC. With neither receiving Republican support in previous procedural votes, the latest Covid absences have tangled the equation for Democrats.

Although Ms. Harris has not been around Mr. Biden by chance in recent days, her infection has served as a reminder of the dangers for Mr. Biden, who at 79 is the oldest person ever to be sworn in as president, and in age group considered older. vulnerable to the virus. He has traveled and made public appearances lately, including going out of town three times last week, which increases his potential danger, and on Tuesday, aides appeared resigned to the prospect that he could eventually become infected.

“It’s possible he could test positive for Covid, like any American,” said Jen Psaki, a White House press secretary. “Despite the fact that it has dual amplification, it is possible. And we’ll be very transparent if that happens.”

She said the president and his staff are evaluating the risk of him traveling outside the White House, and he has made recent trips that he considers “vital to himself, to his presidency, to the American people.”

Mr. Biden plans to deliver a eulogy for former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright at a memorial service Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, where he will be among some 1,400 mourners, including former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mr. Biden is also scheduled to attend the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner on Saturday night, along with more than 2,500 officials and journalists, in the hotel’s basement ballroom.

The most recent of these major dinners in Washington resulted in a massive outbreak that engulfed much of the metropolitan elite. At least 80 guests at last month’s Gridiron dinner subsequently tested positive, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and two members of Mr. Biden’s cabinet, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Ms. Harris was not at the dinner, but her communications director Jamal Simmons was present and subsequently tested positive. The infections of both the vice president and the speaker of the House of Representatives mean that the first and second in line for the presidency have now been hit by the virus at short notice.

Miss Harris, aged 57 got her second booster shot April 1, three days after federal regulators authorized a second dose of the vaccine for people over 50. It takes about a week for a vaccination to strengthen the immune system. Mr. Biden also received a second additional dose. According to a White House spokesman, the last time they were together was on April 18.

Ms. Harris, who returned on Monday from a trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles, went to her White House office Tuesday morning and underwent a rapid antigen test as part of the usual protocol for the president and vice president. When it came back positive, she did a PCR test, which also came back positive. At this point, instead of attending the daily intelligence briefing with the President as scheduled, she returned home, where aides said she would stay until she tested negative. Biden later called to check on her, aides said.

Doug Emhoff, Ms Harris’ husband, tested positive for the virus in mid-March. At the time, Ms. Harris was forced to cancel a meeting with the president, even though her tests were still negative. Mr Emhoff told McClatchy News Last week, he isolated himself from his wife for 10 days, being infected, staying in an upstairs room and bringing him food.

The surge in infections in the upper reaches of Washington came amid the spread of a highly contagious sub-variant of Omicron known as BA.2 and served as a reminder that the pandemic continues even as officials seek to lift restrictions.

Officials at the White House said they were tracing contacts to determine who may have been near Ms Harris in recent days. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines close contact as someone who spends at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected person in a 24 hour period. Officials have repeatedly stressed that the White House is taking stricter measures than recommended by the CDC.