Vice President Kamala Harris was likely exposed to COVID-19 this week and, due to her fully vaccinated and boosted status, was not required to isolate or quarantine but is supposed to wear a mask at all times while around others for at least 10 days.
Except Harris was spotted maskless and close to others twice since that announcement and, when called out over that fact, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended the VP’s clear skirting of the rules, Fox News reported.
According to Psaki, Harris’ failure to adhere to applicable guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was “understandable” and no big deal since, in one instance, Harris was outside and, in an indoors incident, was caught up in an “emotional moment.”
Exposed as “close contact” to COVID
It was first announced Wednesday in a statement that Jamaal Simmons, communications director for VP Harris, had tested positive for COVID-19 after having been in “close contact” with the vice president.
“The Vice President will follow CDC guidance for those that have been in close contact with a positive individual and will continue to consult with her physician. The Vice President plans to continue with her public schedule,” the statement added.
That public schedule involved overseeing the Senate confirmation vote Thursday on Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, during which Harris was seen maskless in her spot atop the dais, as well as an outdoor celebration Friday at the White House, where a maskless Harris was seen hugging Jackson.
Why wasn’t Harris wearing a mask in accordance with CDC guidelines?
During Friday’s press briefing, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked, “Is there a carve-out in CDC regulations for COVID for the Vice President?”
He then pointed to the CDC guidelines about masks the vice president is supposed to abide by and asked, “So why is she here at the White House today giving the new Supreme Court justice a big hug with no mask?”
Psaki initially excused the hug as having taken place “outside,” but Doocy fired back, “Does the CDC say that people who are close contact can give people hugs outside?” The press secretary stood by her initial response that it was ok for Harris to be maskless outdoors and then insisted that the VP was masked at all times while indoors.
“Rules for thee but not for VP?”
Doocy, however, interrupted to remind Psaki that Harris had been seen maskless in the Senate chamber, which Psaki again excused because “She was playing an important role in confirming or overseeing the confirmation of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.”
The Fox reporter then asked again if there was a “public health carve-out” for Harris and said, “So this is not a case of rules for thee but not for VP?”
An increasingly annoyed and likely flustered Psaki replied, “In fact, the Vice President wore a mask inside today when she was both with the President, with her staff, other people. She was outside at the event. She was socially distanced for 99.9 percent of the event today. And she had an emotional moment, which is understandable.”