National News

Coronavirus among staff forces Kamala Harris off campaign trail

Posted October 15, 2020 9:47 a.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2020 8:25 p.m. EDT

— U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, canceled scheduled campaign events in Asheville and Charlotte on Thursday after learning some staffers had tested positive for coronavirus.

Harris had planned to participate in get-out-the-vote events in the two cities. She held a virtual event Thursday evening instead.

"The contrast between Joe Biden and Donald Trump could not be more stark," Harris said during the virtual event, emphasizing Democrat Biden's support for affordable and accessible health care for all Americans.

"We have to fight for the recognition of each other's dignity," she added.

Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon initially identified two people – Harris' communications director and a member of a campaign flight crew – but campaign officials said Thursday evening that contact tracing found a third infected individual.

"After being with Senator Harris, both individuals attended personal, non-campaign events in the past week. 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," Dillon said in a statement.

Both people were on a flight with Harris on Oct. 8 – the day after the vice presidential debate – but Harris wore an N95 mask during the flight and wasn't in close contact with either of the people, Dillon said. Both had tested negative for the virus before and after the flight, she said.

Harris tested negative for the virus on Wednesday, as did everyone else who has traveled with her, other than those two individuals.

Still, the campaign has suspended all of Harris' in-person events through Sunday out of an abundance of caution. She'll return to the campaign trail on Monday. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, also canceled travel plans for Thursday.

Biden had no contact with either of the two people who tested positive and also has tested negative, Dillon said.

Some North Carolina voters said the decision to cancel the in-person events was wise.

"If you’ve been infected or you’ve come close, you need to step away and do the right thing," Steven Vozzo said. "That’s what we need to see from our leaders, that they’re going to take the right steps. It’s a hard step to take, but it’s important that you do that."

Valerie Jarrett, who served as a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama, agreed.

"She absolutely did the right thing," Jarrett said. "She’s not going to put herself, her team or her supporters in harm's way. I think it’s in sharp contrast to what we’ve seen President Trump do time and time again."

Trump held a Thursday afternoon rally at the airport in Greenville – less than two weeks after being diagnosed with COVID-19. During the event, he sent well wishes to Harris and her staff.

Ed Gehringer, who volunteers with the Republican Party in Wake County, said he believes the canceled trip is a missed opportunity for Harris.

"If I were running the campaign, I would try to find a way to do it with social distancing," Gehringer said. "I think it really is important to give your supporters a chance to gather where they can see there are other people that support the same things that they do."

A WRAL News poll released this week shows Biden opening a five-point lead over Trump, 50-45 percent, for North Carolina's 15 electoral votes.

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