The White House said it’s carrying out contact tracing to warn Biden’s close contacts they are at risk of COVID-19 — but declined to say how many people might be impacted. Over the last week, Biden has traded handshakes with senior Israeli officials in Jerusalem, fist-bumped Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and traveled to Massachusetts to promote clean energy with Senator Elizabeth Warren and John Kerry. Throughout those public appearances and others in recent months, Biden has consistently declined to wear a mask. On Thursday, COVID response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha defended the White House’s safety protocols.
Dr. Ashish Jha: “We always said that this was a possibility. I think I even said it from this stage, that this was a possibility. And I think that the protocols have kept him from getting infected, and — but we knew that this was a possibility with this incredibly contagious variant.”
Biden will turn 80 shortly after November’s midterm elections. Even in young and fully vaccinated people, COVID-19 can cause long-term effects that are still poorly understood, including neurological and mental health problems, cardiac damage, inflammation and fatigue.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris, who is second in the line to the presidency, plans to maintain her schedule this week, even though she’s considered a close contact of Biden’s.
This all comes amid another wave of COVID-19 cases, driven by the BA.5 Omicron variant, with about 3,000 U.S. residents dying of the disease each week.