New York: US Vice-President Kamala Harris has become the highest-ranking official in the current Biden administration to be infected with COVID-19 despite vaccinations as the US tries desperately to bring a semblance of normalcy after two years of restrictions and nearly a million deaths.
Her Spokesperson Kirsten Allen said on Tuesday that Harris has tested positive for the disease but has shown no symptoms and will isolate herself in the Vice-President’s official residence, the Naval Observatory.
She had the initial two doses of COVID-19 vaccine and followed it up with a booster dose.
Amid concerns for the 79-year-old US President Joe Biden, Allen added the reassurance that Harris, who has been travelling, has not been in direct contact with him or his wife Jill in recent days.
The report of the infection of Harris and several officials and lawmakers fueled by the COVID’s Omicron variant and its subvariant BA.2 comes as a Federal court struck down the government mandate requiring mask on planes, other transportation and public places.
The Biden administration has been making a determined push for COVID vaccinations in a country where the preventive measure has been politicised.
The vaccination made compulsory in certain sectors of the federal, state and local governments is now accepted as not being able to completely stop infections, giving ammunition to anti-vaxers, but it prevents severe cases of the disease from developing, which has become the Biden administration’s goal.
Former US President Donald Trump had contracted COVID-19 while in office and had to be hospitalised.
But with vaccinations available, none of the current top officials has had to be admitted to a hospital for treatment.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday that nearly 60 per cent of the country’s population had been infected by the virus.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is 82-years-old and is next after Harris in the line of succession to the presidency, also tested positive earlier this April for the virus that is spreading through Washington.
Harris’s husband, Dough Emhoff, was infected with COVID-19 in March, but she was not infected with the virus at that time.
She came to the White House, where she has an office, on Tuesday but after two tests, a rapid antigen test and PCR test, came positive she returned home.
Three cabinet members – Attorney General Merrick Garland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Commerce Secretary Gian Raimondo also have tested positive for COVID-19.
Garland and Raimondo were at a dinner for the nation’s elite hosted by a journalists’ group that turned out to be a super-spreader event infecting more than 70 people, including several members of US Congress and Harris’s Communications Director Jamal Harrison.
Another such dinner hosted by the White House Correspondents Association is coming up this weekend and Biden is scheduled to attend it.