Harris arrives in L.A. as staffer, political leaders in D.C. test positive for coronavirus

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 has been vaccinated, and was given a booster shot. He will be tested again 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.

“Since [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance doesn’t require fully vaccinated persons to quarantine after exposure, Sanders stated in a Wednesday statement. She also stated that Harris and her husband Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff would continue to be in L.A. until 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. A half-hour of close contact took place aboard Air Force One on Friday, when Biden gave a commencement speech in South Carolina. Then, he flew to Wilmington, Del. for the weekend.

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

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

He claimed he is not feeling well but was able to get an at-home test that proved inconclusive. This was just before his granddaughter’s wedding.

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 (D.Del. 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 stated that Omicron is a more dangerous strain of the coronavirus than previous variants. It also warned that vaccines must be used to protect against serious illness, hospitalizations, and death.

“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 will be able to avoid infection for the long-term. These cases may not be serious if you’re fully vaccinated. 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.

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