At least three people connected to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign have tested positive for the coronavirus, leading the campaign to suspend in-person events for vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris through to Monday.
r Biden is not altering his public schedule, his campaign said, because he had no direct exposure to the individuals who tested positive, as defined by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s the Biden campaign’s first major coronavirus scare, after months of safety precautions that drew mockery from President Donald Trump, even after he, first lady Melania Trump and others contracted the virus themselves.
The Democratic campaign’s cautious reaction underscores the differences in how the rival camps have approached the pandemic, both in terms of preferred government response and in the candidates’ personal protocols.
Mr Biden’s campaign announced two positive cases yesterday morning, identifying Ms Harris’s communications director Liz Allen and an unnamed member of the flight crew for one of Ms Harris’ recent campaign trips.
The campaign announced a third case yesterday afternoon as part of its contact tracing efforts from the first two cases.
The third individual is an aviation company employee who was on Mr Biden’s plane for trips to Ohio and Florida earlier this week but who entered the back of the plane and sat far away from Mr Biden, according to the campaign.
Ms Harris and Mr Biden, meanwhile, spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on October 8, when the first two people who tested positive were on a flight with Ms Harris. Both candidates have tested negative for the coronavirus multiple times since then, including yesterday. Everyone on the Biden campaign plane is required to wear a mask.
Mr Trump, speaking without a mask at a crowded outdoor rally in North Carolina yesterday afternoon, offered his best wishes to Ms Harris and reiterated his scepticism 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, with less than three weeks to go until Election Day.
Ms Harris was set to encourage early voting yesterday in North Carolina.
Her trip to Cleveland today 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.
Ms Harris will continue virtual campaigning, including fundraisers.
The senator’s brief hiatus from the trail comes as Mr Trump ramps up his own travel after he, the first lady, his campaign manager and several White House staffers contracted the virus.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon told reporters yesterday morning that under CDC guidelines, there was no need for the candidates to quarantine, although she said Ms Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff, would suspend travel for several days “out of an abundance of caution”.
“Neither of these individuals had any contact with Vice President Biden, with Senator Harris or any other staff member since testing positive or in the 48-hour period prior to their positive test results,” Ms O’Malley Dillon said.
Ms Harris followed up in a statement saying she’d 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.”
Ms O’Malley Dillon announced the third case late yesterday afternoon.
She said Mr Biden’s medical advisers recommended against a quarantine because of the distance between Mr Biden and the third individual who tested positive.
The Democratic ticket’s campaign events are socially distanced and require participants to wear masks.