The White House reported on Tuesday that US Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for Covid-19, highlighting the virus’s persistence even as the US eases restrictions in an effort to return to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Harris scored positive on both fast and PCR testing, according to the White House, and she “has showed no symptoms.” Harris will remain at home but work remotely, and she will only return to the White House if she has tested negative for the virus.
Harris, 57, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccination weeks before entering office and a second dose just days after the 2021 Inauguration. In late October, she had a booster shot, and on April 1, she received another booster shot. According to the Associated Press, those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted have a high level of protection against serious disease and death from Covid-19, particularly the most frequent and highly transmissible omicron strain.
President Joe Biden and first wife Jill Biden were not considered “close contacts” of Harris in recent days, according to the White House.
When she tests negative, Harris will return to the White House, following CDC protocols and physician recommendations.
As a wave of cases of the highly transmissible omicron subvariant has spread through Washington’s political class, infecting Cabinet members, White House staffers, and lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Harris’ diagnosis comes a month after her husband, Doug Emhoff, recovered from the virus.
Covid-19 isn’t Quite ‘Endemic’: Experts Warn about three Things That Could Set Back Global Progress
Covid is trying to escape. According to the World Health Organization, daily rates of new infections and deaths are down in most parts of the world: According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, almost 2,700 COVID deaths occurred every day on average last week. That’s the lowest average death rate since late March 2020, when the virus had only recently spread over the world and no one was immune.
Immunity is now widely available. Two out of every three people have received all of their vaccines, and billions more have antibodies from previous infections. Even as the virus continues to mutate into new and more contagious strains, our immunity has held up.
The drop in cases and deaths after 29 months of being defined by a transmissible and fatal virus is unmistakably excellent news. Governments all across the world have responded to changing conditions by easing the last few restrictions on travel, enterprises, and schools, with a few notable exceptions.
We’re getting closer to a point where many countries will declare victory over Covid by classifying the disease as “endemic,” but there’s still a lot of risk involved. Experts have cautioned that three factors, alone or in combination, have the ability to reverse recent advances and send COVID cases and fatalities soaring, perhaps extending the pandemic into its third year – or longer.
China, Africa, and mutations are all on the horizon. Those are the three things that we should be most concerned about. The three things that could prevent worldwide endemicity from occurring. “We’re only one new variant away from another wave of cases, and if that new variant is sufficiently different from the ones we’ve already seen, mortality could easily rise again,” said Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at the University of Florida.
China is still fighting its first significant COVID outbreak. It’s also unknown how much worse things could get. It’s possible that Chinese immunizations aren’t particularly effective. And, thanks in part to the government’s rigorous lockdown tactics, which kept instances extremely low until highly contagious new varieties — “lineages” is the scientific phrase — arrived this spring, there isn’t much natural protection in the country.
Africa, on the other hand, is equally vulnerable. A billion Africans are unvaccinated, accounting for 85 percent of the continent’s population. In most African countries, like in China, there haven’t been enough infections to build up population-wide natural immunity. So far, the continent has been fortunate. That good fortune might not last.
Finally, the virus could still throw us a curveball. SARS-CoV-2 has mutated in ways that make it more transmissible but less severe in the past. Our vaccines and antibodies have not been able to overcome any of the novel lineages. That could change in the future.