The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Incoming.
A senior campaign aide and flight crew member who traveled with Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris a week ago have tested positive for the coronavirus and are now self-quarantining, Joe Biden’s campaign manager announced Thursday.
Harris tested negative as recently as Wednesday and was to be tested again Thursday, the campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said on a conference call with reporters. Campaign officials did not consider self-quarantine to be a necessity for the California senator, but she has canceled her travel through Sunday, Oct. 18, “out of an abundance of caution.”
In the Senate this week, Harris has been attending the hearings of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett virtually.
On Thursday afternoon, the campaign also announced that a crew member onboard a Biden flight also tested positive. However, the campaign said the former vice president did not come within 50 feet of the individual who, like Biden, was wearing a mask during the flight.
"Given these facts, we have been advised by the Vice President’s doctor and the campaign’s medical advisors that there is no need for the Vice President to quarantine," O'Malley Dillon said.
Biden will keep his Thursday schedule, including a virtual fundraiser and an ABC News town hall forum at night, O’Malley Dillon said.
The two people who tested positive, Harris communications director Liz Allen and a nonstaff flight crew member, were on a flight with Harris on Oct. 8, during which all three individuals wore N95 masks, according to the campaign. Before and after that flight, the Biden campaign said, both individuals received negative test results.
Biden and Harris campaigned in person together on Oct. 8 in Arizona.
“The vice president is continuing on with his schedule today,” O’Malley Dillon said of Biden on Thursday’s call with reporters. “He was not in close contact with either of these individuals.”
The timeline offered Thursday by the Biden campaign was more detailed than the information shared by President Donald Trump, his doctors, the White House, and the Trump reelection campaign after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks ago. Trump’s team, for example, never disclosed when the president had last tested negative. Several Trump administration and campaign staffers also tested positive around that time.
Sometime after the flight on Oct. 8, on a day not specified by the Biden campaign, Allen and the flight crew member both “attended personal, non-campaign events” — occasions also not specified by the Biden campaign. In a statement released before the conference call, O’Malley Dillon said campaign officials do not consider Biden, Harris, Harris’s husband Doug Emhoff, or any other staff member of the campaign to have been “exposed” to Allen or the flight crew member.
Under the campaign’s regular health and safety protocols, O’Malley Dillon said, Allen and the flight crew member both took COVID tests again before returning to in-person campaign activity. Late on Wednesday, the night before the campaign released its statement, O’Malley Dillon said, the campaign learned that both Allen and the flight crew member had tested positive.
O’Malley Dillon said the campaign has initiated contact tracing “to notify everyone who came into contact with the individuals during the potential infection window. … We are also communicating with our campaign staff.” Neither person was in contact with Harris or anyone else on the campaign during the 48 hours before they tested positive, according to the campaign.
“Obviously it is because of the protocols that we have in place that we have been able to get this information, that we were able to identify what's happening here and have these rigorous protocols that reinforce testing, reinforce all the kind of components that we have moving forward,” O’Malley Dillon said on Thursday morning’s call. “And so we've been able to catch this and have this information and obviously share it with all of you guys this morning, because of those protocols in place.”
The Biden campaign has tried to model careful health and safety protocols since officials restarted more frequent travel late this summer. In Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden and a small crew of political reporters are based, staff and journalists are administered rapid tests ahead of every out-of-town campaign trip. Biden is tested frequently, though not daily.
After Trump revealed he had tested positive for COVID-19, just two days after appearing onstage with the president at a debate in Cleveland earlier this month, Biden twice tested negative for COVID-19 the following day, but did not self-quarantine or stop traveling. Campaign officials said that although he shared a stage with Trump for 90 minutes, they did not consider him to have been “exposed” to the president.
Before suspending her travel Thursday morning, Harris had been scheduled to attend virtual fundraisers and three in-person events in North Carolina. She was to travel to Cleveland on Friday.
“Sen. Harris will continue to work, virtually,” O’Malley Dillon told reporters. “We'll look at the specific events, today, to figure out which ones lend themselves to repurposing, but we'll obviously also be back in North Carolina before the election.”
“And you know I think that this shows how seriously we take COVID — how we, ever since March, have done everything in our power as a campaign to ensure the safety of our staff and our volunteers and voters, and we'll continue to do so.”
This post has been updated with news of the positive test result for the Biden plane crew member.