Kamala Harris scraps in-person Charlotte visit after staffers test positive for COVID-19; plans virtual event

Kamala Harris scraps in-person Charlotte visit after staffers test positive for COVID-19; plans virtual event

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sen. Kamala Harris has canceled her scheduled visit to Charlotte and Asheville Thursday after two people close to the campaign tested positive for COVID-19, the Biden for President campaign announced in a release Thursday morning.

Harris suspended in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus. The campaign said Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8.

Harris had been scheduled to travel Thursday to North Carolina for events encouraging voters to cast early ballots.

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Biden’s campaign later announced she will hold a virtual event in the Tar Heel State. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Congresswoman Alma Adams and leaders across the state will join Harris to celebrate the first day of in-person early voting, the campaign stated.

The event starts at 6 p.m.

Biden’s campaign also announced a third case but said that Biden had no direct exposure and will continue campaigning. Biden and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8.

So far, Harris' communications director, a flight crew member and an aviation company employee who was on Biden’s plane have tested positive.

The Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee was set to deliver remarks at an early vote launch mobilization event in Asheville Thursday morning before heading to Charlotte in the afternoon to participate in a campaign hub grand opening.

Harris has tested negative for the coronavirus previously. She will be tested again Thursday.

Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said, “neither of these individuals had any contact with Vice President Biden, with Sen. Harris or any other staff member since testing positive or in the 48-hour period prior to their positive test results.” But O’Malley Dillon said Harris would suspend travel for several days “out of an abundance of caution.”

Harris and Biden spent several hours together that day through multiple campaign stops, private meetings and a joint appearance in front of reporters at an airport. They were masked at all times in public, and aides said they were masked in private, as well. Biden and Harris have each had multiple negative tests since then. Harris has had two tests since Oct. 8, most recently Wednesday, O’Malley Dillon said. Biden’s last announced negative test was Tuesday.

Biden is scheduled to attend an ABC News town hall airing live at 8 p.m.

Below is the statement from Biden for President campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon:

"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.

"Senator Harris was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC, with either of these individuals during the two days prior to their positive tests; 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 canceling Senator Harris’s travel through Sunday, October 18th, but 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 19th.

"This is the sort of conduct we have continuously modeled in this campaign. Neither of these people have had contact with Vice President Biden, Senator Harris or any other staffers since testing positive or in the 48 hours prior to their positive test results. 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. 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.

"Prior to their time off, both individuals were on a flight with Senator Harris on October 8th. During the flight, Senator Harris wore an N95 mask, as did both individuals. She was not within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes with either of them. As such, she does not meet the CDC definition of “close contact” for exposure. In addition, both before and after the flight both individuals tested negative.

"In the course of our campaign’s routine testing protocols, Senator Harris has taken 2 PCR tests since October 8th, and the tests all have been negative, most recently on Wednesday, October 14th. All other members of our staff on the flight have also taken routine tests since October 8th (two to three PCRs each); all of these tests have also been negative.

"We are also canceling Doug Emhoff’s travel for Thursday, October 15th. He has also taken 3 PCR tests since October 8th and all have been negative. Given that he had no contact at any time with the two individuals, and given both his and Senator Harris’s negative testing, he has not been exposed. He will return to in-person campaigning on Friday, October 16th. The campaign has begun the contact tracing process to notify everyone who came into contact with the individuals during the potential infection window.

“The laboratory which conducts tests on our behalf has reported these results, as they do all of our test results, to local officials as required by law. We are also communicating with our campaign staff. 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.”

In an earlier message to North Carolina voters, Harris encouraged making a plan to get out and vote early.

“We have been waiting for this moment for nearly four years: the chance to vote for a new president and a brighter future for our country," Harris said. "And you have a few easy and convenient ways to vote early and make sure your voice is heard. So let’s make a plan. First, vote-by-mail is already underway. You can also vote early in-person, starting October 15th. Either way, you’ll be one of the first voters to move our country forward.”

This would have been the fifth trip to North Carolina from a principal member of the Biden-Harris campaign since Sept. 23.

Former Vice President Joe Biden visited Charlotte on Sept. 23, where he hosted a Black Economic Summit and spoke with local business owners.

6pm update: Joe Biden makes campaign stop in Charlotte ahead of Trump’s visit