Biden continues with large events as coronavirus cases rise among his staff

Washington, Apr 6 (EFE).- Covid-19 cases are rising among President Joe Biden’s staff, but he has opted to continue with large events at the White House where people gather indoors and facemasks are not required.

Two members of Biden’s cabinet on Wednesday announced that they had tested positive for Covid-19 – Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo – who revealed their respective diagnoses after being at several heavily attended events in recent days.

Shortly after those announcements, Biden participated in an event with dozens of people – most of them not wearing facemasks – in the White House formal dining room to sign a bill reforming the US Postal Service.

There were also few masks in evidence in the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, when some 200 people gathered to attend events with Biden and former President Barack Obama, who was making his first visit back to the presidential residence since leaving office in 2017.

Also attending that event was Vice President Kamala Harris, whose media adviser, Jamal Simmons, also tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday after having been in “close contact” with her, the White House confirmed.

However, Harris plans to continue with her public agenda because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not obligating people in close contact with positive coronavirus testees provided they are showing no symptoms, her office said.

In addition, Biden’s two press secretaries – Jen Psaki and Karine Jean-Pierre – became infected with Covid in late March, along with dozens of reporters, lawmakers and others who attended the Gridiron Club dinner for journalists last Saturday.

Coronavirus cases in Washington DC have risen 53 percent over the past two weeks and the infection rate remains high with an average of 93 people per day testing positive, although that is far below the peak of more than 2,000 new cases per day registered in early January, according to The New York Times.

Health authorities are concerned about a potential spike in cases due to the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron strain of the virus, but the CDC has not changed its recommendations to the public.

Biden, who during his election campaign and his first year in office avoided large crowds, has not hidden his desire to once again mix with the public, one of the things he enjoys most about his political life.

He said with a smile that this was the biggest crowd at a White House event since he came into office, making his remarks on March 15 during an indoor event with many people in attendance.

Psaki said Wednesday at a press conference that the White House is taking rigorous precautions, including ensuring that anyone who meets with the president takes a Covid-19 test in advance.

That requirement does not necessarily extend to all people invited to public events at the White House, Psaki said, going on to emphasize that when someone has had a booster shot the symptoms of Omicron are usually “slight.”

Biden, 79, last week received his fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine, that is to say his second booster shot, and his latest coronavirus test last Monday was negative.

Before getting his shot on March 30, the president said that although the Covid-19 pandemic has not ended, it’s no longer controlling the lives of Americans.

EFE llb/pamp/cpy/bp

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