White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Monday evening that, earlier in the day, a staff member who does not regularly have contact with Biden tested positive for COVID-19.
“Three days earlier, on Friday, that staff member had spent approximately 30 minutes in proximity to the President on Air Force One, on the way from Orangeburg, South Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” she said.
Psaki said the staff member, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, tested negative prior to boarding the aircraft, as is required for everyone traveling with the president, and did not begin to experience symptoms until Dec. 19. They tested positive on Dec. 20.
She added that Biden, who turned 79 in November, “is tested on a regular basis.” He tested negative in an antigen test on Dec. 19, Psaki said.
“This morning, after being notified of the staffer’s positive test, the President received a PCR test and tested negative. He will be tested again on Wednesday,” she said.
The president will not need to quarantine as per current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that fully vaccinated people are not required to quarantine after exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, Psaki noted.
“The president has a full schedule today and is not in need of quarantine,” she said.
Psaki added that others on Air Force One who were in close contact with the infected staff member are being contacted and will be advised to get tested per the CDC’s guidance.
The announcement came shortly after the president issued a stark warning about the coming winter, amid concerns over the newly detected Omicron variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the disease COVID-19.
Biden during a Dec. 16 press conference said that the variant was quickly surging in the country, warning that the White House believes those who are unvaccinated would experience a winter of “severe illness and death.”
“If you’re vaccinated, and you have your booster shot, you’re protected from severe illness and death,” the president added.
The following day, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients pushed similar rhetoric that the unvaccinated are largely to blame for the ongoing pandemic.
“We are intent on not letting omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this,” Zients said. “For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”
Few Omicron-related deaths have been officially confirmed so far worldwide, and it’s not clear if any have been reported in the United States. Meanwhile, New York City’s health director said that while omicron cases are rising quickly, hospitalizations are not at this time.
South African ministry of health officials last week said that their rates of hospitalization due to Omicron are about one-tenth of the hospitalization rate for the Delta wave earlier this year.