The Democratic Party’s vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, has cancelled her campaign events for the next three days after one of her most senior staffers tested positive for the coronavirus.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon revealed the diagnosis in a statement on Thursday morning, US time.
“Late on the night of Wednesday, October 14th, we learned that two individuals involved in the campaign tested positive for COVID-19 – a non-staff flight crew member and Liz Allen, communications director to Senator Harris,” Ms O’Malley Dillon said.
“Senator Harris was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention), with either of these individuals during the two days prior to their positive tests,” she continued.
“As such, there is no requirement for quarantine. Regardless, out of an abundance of caution and in line with our campaign’s commitment to the highest levels of precaution, we are cancelling Senator Harris’s travel through Sunday, October 18.
“She will keep a robust and aggressive schedule of virtual campaign activities to reach voters all across the country during this time. She will return to in-person campaigning on Monday, October 19.”
With the November 3 election less than 20 days away, Ms Harris’s absence from the campaign represents a significant chunk of the time she had left to win over voters.
Ms O’Malley Dillon went on to give more details about the two confirmed cases.
She said both Ms Allen and the unnamed flight crew member were on a flight with Ms Harris on October 8, the day after she participated in the vice presidential debate with Mike Pence.
Ms Harris wore an N95 mask the entire time, as did both of the individuals in question, and she did not come within six feet (about two metres) of either of them.
Both individuals tested negative for the virus before and after the flight.
“After being with Senator Harris, both individuals attended personal, non-campaign events in the past week,” Ms O’Malley Dillon said.
“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.”
She said Ms Harris had tested negative for the virus yesterday.
“The campaign has begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who came into contact with the individuals during the potential infection window,” she said.
“The laboratory which conducts tests on our behalf has reported these results, as they do all of our test results, to local officials.
“From the outset of this pandemic, the Biden-Harris campaign has taken every precaution to limit the spread of COVID-19. Today’s exceedingly cautious steps are part of that commitment.”
This setback for the Biden campaign comes less than two weeks after the virus thoroughly derailed President Donald Trump’s campaign, sending Mr Trump himself to hospital and infecting several of his top staffers.
The White House outbreak affected more than 30 people, among them Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnay, policy adviser Stephen Miller, communications adviser Hope Hicks, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, three Republican senators and three of Ms McEnany’s deputies.
Many of those people were at a suspected “superspreader” event in the White House’s Rose Garden last month, where Mr Trump announced he was nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
The event involved no social distancing, and guests were told they could remove their face coverings after they tested negative on their way in.
Since emerging from Walter Reed Medical Centre, the President has resumed his massive campaign rallies, which draw crowds numbering in the thousands and also involve no social distancing whatsoever.