• The San Juan Daily Star

Vice President Kamala Harris was exposed to the coronavirus

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during the Democratic National Committee holiday celebration in Washington, Dec. 14, 2021.

By Michael D. Shear

Vice President Kamala Harris was exposed to the coronavirus by a staff member who was close to her throughout the day Tuesday and later tested positive, Harris’ spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday evening.

Harris tested negative for the coronavirus Wednesday after learning of the exposure, officials said. She will be tested again Friday and Monday, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Yesterday, Monday and every day last week, this staff member tested negative for COVID-19,” Symone Sanders, Harris’ spokeswoman, said in a statement. “This staff member is fully vaccinated and boosted and did not experience symptoms. Others who were in close contact with this staff member are being contacted and will be advised to get tested.”

White House officials said Monday that President Joe Biden had also been in close contact with a staff member who later tested positive. Since the encounter, Biden has tested negative twice, including once Wednesday morning.

In both cases, the White House declined to identify the staff members who had tested positive, citing privacy rules. Officials said neither Biden nor Harris were required to quarantine or restrict their activities because both had received negative tests and neither showed symptoms.

“The vice president will continue with her daily schedule,” Sanders wrote. “This evening, she will depart Joint Base Andrews for Los Angeles, where she and the second gentleman will remain through the New Year.”

The effort to keep Biden and Harris healthy comes as the administration scrambles to confront the rapidly spreading omicron variant, and as several lawmakers have contracted COVID-19. On Wednesday night, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the No. 3 Democrat in the House, announced he had tested positive but was asymptomatic, while Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said she, too, had tested positive after feeling mildly ill. “America is in a new phase of this pandemic,” Clyburn, 81, said in a Twitter post. “No one is immune.”

Risk of exposure to the coronavirus has been a concern at the White House since the beginning of the pandemic. Several senior staff members to President Donald Trump became infected last year, and Trump spent several days in the hospital with the disease.

The Biden White House took more precautions. People who enter the White House are required to be vaccinated, and those who interact with Biden or Harris must be tested beforehand.

Still, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, became ill with COVID in October, signaling that employees are still vulnerable in the confines of the 18-acre White House complex.

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