Two Biden campaign staffers test positive for COVID-19, canceling Harris’ Cleveland trip

United States elections

The campaign said Joe Biden had no exposure, though he and Kamala Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrive to speak at a news conference at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden’s presidential campaign said Thursday that vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will suspend in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus, including her planned trip to Cleveland.

The campaign said Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8.

“After being with Senator Harris, both individuals attended personal, non-campaign events in the past week. Under our campaign’s strict health protocols, both individuals had to be tested before returning to their work with the campaign from these personal events.  These protocols help protect the campaign, the staff, and anyone who they may have contact with; the importance of having such protocols — which include testing before resuming duties, regular testing while working in-person, isolation after time off, and masking and distancing while on campaign duties — have been illustrated once again.”

– STATEMENT BY BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN MANAGER JEN O’MALLEY DILLON

Harris was scheduled to travel Thursday to North Carolina for events encouraging voters to cast early ballots.

She was scheduled to stop in Cleveland Friday.

The campaign told reporters Thursday morning that Harris’ communications director and a traveling staff member for her travel to Arizona tested positive after that Oct. 8 trip.

Harris and Biden spent several hours together that day through multiple campaign stops, private meetings and a joint appearance in front of reporters at an airport. They were masked at all times in public, and aides said they were masked in private, as well. Biden and Harris have each had multiple negative tests since then.

“The campaign has begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who came into contact with the individuals during the potential infection window,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in the statement. “The laboratory which conducts tests on our behalf has reported these results, as they do all of our test results, to local officials as required by law.”

It’s the Biden campaign’s first major coronavirus scare, after months of careful health procedures that brought mockery from President Donald Trump, even after a White House virus outbreak that included the president and first lady Melania Trump. The Democratic campaign’s cautious reaction underscores again the differences in how the rival camps have approached the pandemic, both in terms of preferred government response and the candidates’ personal protocols.

Trump, speaking without a mask at a crowded outdoor rally in North Carolina Thursday afternoon, offered his best wishes to Harris, and reiterated his skepticism of wearing masks.

“We worry about her. I’m very concerned about her,” he said, later adding: “Masks, no masks, everything, you can do all you want, but you know, you still need help.”

The travel suspension interrupts the Biden campaign’s aggressive push across a wide battleground map, including North Carolina and Ohio, the next two states Harris was scheduled to visit.

The campaign sees Harris, the first Black woman on a major party presidential ticket, as a key part of its outreach in North Carolina, where increasing Black turnout is key to the Democrats’ hopes of flipping the state. She had been scheduled to travel to the state Thursday for events encouraging voters to cast early ballots.

Her Friday trip to Cleveland would have been her first to Ohio as the vice presidential nominee and would have taken her into the metropolitan area with the state’s largest concentration of Black voters.

The senator’s brief hiatus from the trail comes as Trump ramps up his own travel again after he, the first lady and several White House staffers contracted the virus.

The Biden campaign told reporters Thursday morning that Harris’ communications director, Liz Allen, and a flight crew member tested positive after the recent campaign trip to the southwest. Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said both tested negative before and after Harris’ travels. Their positive results came in subsequent tests.

“Neither of these individuals had any contact with Vice President Biden, with Sen. Harris or any other staff member since testing positive or in the 48-hour period prior to their positive test results,” O’Malley Dillon said, adding that under CDC guidelines there was no need for quarantining.

But O’Malley Dillon said Harris would suspend travel for several days “out of an abundance of caution.”

The campaign also is canceling upcoming travel for Doug Emhoff, Harris’ husband.

Harris followed up in a statement saying that “both the crew member and the staff member were wearing N95 masks at all points they were near me, and our doctors believe that we were not exposed under CDC guidelines.”

She also pledged to be “transparent with you about any test results that I do receive. In the meantime, remember: wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands regularly. It is possible to stop the spread.”

Harris will continue virtual campaigning, including fundraisers previously scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Harris and Biden spent several hours together on Oct. 8 through multiple campaign stops, private meetings and a joint appearance in front of reporters at an airport. They were masked at all times in public, and aides said they were masked in private, as well, including on all flights.

Harris has had two tests since then, most recently on Wednesday, O’Malley Dillon said.

O’Malley Dillon said all campaign staff members on the Oct. 8 flight have been tested at least twice since then. All tests have been negative, she said.

The campaign became aware of the positive tests Wednesday night, O’Malley Dillon said. Harris already this week had opted to attend virtually the Senate Judiciary Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, rather than in person after some of her GOP Senate colleagues tested positive for coronavirus or disclosed their exposure to others who had tested positive.

Biden’s campaign has taken the coronavirus seriously, drawing mockery from Trump and Republicans, even as the White House deals with the fallout of its virus outbreak.

The Democratic ticket’s campaign events are socially distanced and require participants to wear masks. Staff often set chairs inside white plastic circles to denote six feet of distance. During a recent indoor speech at a North Carolina event for Harris, reporters were given and asked to wear KN95 masks.

Biden and Harris typically keep their masks on when speaking indoors. Both travel on planes with a small number of staff and Secret Service. For Harris’ travel, a second plane carries the rest of the staff. While for Biden, a second plane carries the traveling press corps.

Biden will attend an ABC News town hall on Thursday airing live at 8 p.m. EDT, and he will proceed with his planned travel Friday and through the weekend.

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Associated Press reporters Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, Alexandra Jaffe in Washington and Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed.

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