Kamala Harris testing positive for coronavirus underscores rising cases in California
The announcement that Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for the coronavirus underscores the sensitive place Californians and the rest of the nation find themselves in more than two years into the pandemic.
Following the winter Omicron surge that sent cases soaring to record-shattering levels, the daily tally of new infections fell steadily for months — prompting California health officials to lift many restrictions and masking requirements.
But public health officials and experts have warned that California is not entirely out of the danger zone. Cases have been slowly rising in recent weeks amid the proliferation of even-more-infectious Omicron subvariants, namely BA.2.
Vice President Kamala Harris tests positive for the coronavirus but has no symptoms, and hasn’t had recent contact with President Biden, her office said.
Harris, 57, was in California last week and has not had any recent contact with President Biden and most of the White House staff. She has been vaccinated and boosted twice and, according to her office, is not experiencing any symptoms.
During her time in the state, the vice president delivered a speech at Vandenberg Space Force Base and attended events in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s unclear precisely when, or where, she may have been infected.
When asked about the vice president’s positive result Tuesday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, noted that “we have a very, very contagious variant out there” and said that “it is going to be hard to ensure that no one gets COVID in America. That’s not even a policy goal.”
“The goal of our policies should be — obviously, minimize infections whenever possible — but to make sure people don’t get seriously ill,” he said during a briefing. “The best ways of doing that are making sure people are vaccinated and boosted, as the vice president is, and making sure we have plenty of therapeutics.”
Confused? Confounded? Why L.A. County is requiring masks again at airports and public transit
A new health officer order in Los Angeles County has the nation’s most populous county again enacting face-covering rules more stringent than the state’s or nation’s.
Harris’ visit came at a time when California — like the nation as a whole — is experiencing a gradual uptick in new coronavirus cases.
Over the weeklong period ending Monday, Los Angeles County reported an average of 1,553 new coronavirus cases a day, double the rate from the start of the month.
The county’s case rate rose above 100 cases a day for every 100,000 residents on Saturday, returning the county to a high rate of coronavirus transmission — as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — for the first time since early March.
The increase is relatively modest, however. Experts say it isn’t clear whether the nation is headed toward a second Omicron surge that would challenge hospitals and dramatically worsen the daily COVID-19 death rate, as has happened to Britain, or if the U.S. could be spared a bad spring, as Spain has managed to.
“I believe we are at an inflection point. One hand, we know that BA.2, the subvariant of Omicron, has become dominant. Cases are rising across the country. But hospitalizations are at the lowest level of the pandemic and deaths are continuing to fall,” Jha said.
Many experts stress that face coverings still protect against the coronavirus and that masking up makes sense — even if it’s no longer mandatory.
So far, that’s been California’s experience, as well. Statewide, 950 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized as of Monday, a figure that remains among the lowest single-day censuses of the entire pandemic.
On Friday, the number of coronavirus-positive patients in Los Angeles County fell to 209 — the lowest single-day total on record, state data show. However, the count has crept up since then, to 232.
“As the more infectious BA.2 dominates and contributes to the increase in cases in L.A. County, residents are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated and boosted if they are not up to date on their vaccinations,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Monday. “Those who were recently infected with Omicron should consider getting vaccinated or boosted three months after their COVID infection since natural immunity is likely to have waned. With recurring reports of new variants of concern, including sub-lineages of BA.2, we are relieved that the current approved vaccines protect the vaccinated person and those around the vaccinated individual from severe illness.”
Given current conditions, L.A. County has opted to maintain a universal mask mandate at airports and other indoor public transit settings — even after a federal judge in Florida voided a similar nationwide requirement early last week.
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.