US Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for COVID

Harris, who is not displaying symptoms, according to her office, is the latest top US official to contract the coronavirus.

Kamala Harris
US Vice President Kamala Harris has not been in close contact with President Joe Biden, her office says [File: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

US Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House said, becoming the latest top official in Washington to contract the coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the vice president said in a statement on Tuesday that Harris had not been in close contact with President Joe Biden or his wife Jill Biden “due to their respective recent travel schedules”.

“Today, Vice President Harris tested positive for COVID-19 on rapid and PCR tests,” said spokeswoman Kirsten Allen. “She has exhibited no symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the vice president’s residence.”

Earlier this month, top US cabinet members and key lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also tested positive for COVID-19.

Several White House aides and Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, have also contracted the virus in recent weeks.

But Biden, who tests regularly for COVID-19, has not been infected despite the outbreaks in US political circles, the White House has said.

“The President and the Vice President spoke on the phone this afternoon,” the White House said on Tuesday. “[Biden] wanted to check in and make sure she has everything she needs as she quarantines at home.”

Most legislators with recent positive tests have said they had mild cases, crediting vaccination for their light symptoms.

“After experiencing what I thought were seasonal allergies, I have tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, I am fully vaccinated so my symptoms remain extremely mild,” Congressman Joe Morelle, a New York Democrat, wrote on Twitter on Monday.

The US has reported more than 81 million COVID-19 cases and nearly one million related deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, according to data from John Hopkins University.

But most places across the country have lifted coronavirus-related restrictions as the numbers of cases, hospitalisations and deaths dropped following an Omicron variant-fuelled wave earlier this year.

Last week, a US court struck down a federal mask mandate for air travel and other forms of public transportation, ruling that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) overstepped its authority when issuing the health order.

Conservative politicians, who are generally opposed to pandemic-related mandates and restrictions, cheered the court’s decision.

But the CDC stressed that masks remain the most effective way of protecting people against the virus in crowded and poorly ventilated places.

“CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health,” the agency said in a statement after the ruling. “CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in all indoor public transportation settings.”

The US Department of Justice has appealed the court’s decision, pointing to a CDC statement that said the mask mandate for travel “remains necessary to protect the public health”.

Source: Al Jazeera