As Kamala Harris gets Covid, Ashish Jha warns of potential surges

Kamala HarrisWhite House Covid Czar says key lesson was to ensure people are vaccinated and boosted to minimize infections

As Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for Covid, the White House’s Covid Czar Ashish Jha said a key lesson from her infection was to ensure people are vaccinated and boosted to minimize infections.

With “a very, very contagious variant out there, it is going to be hard to ensure that no one gets Covid in America,” Indian American Covid-19 Response Coordinator told reporters at a White House press briefing Tuesday.

“That’s not even a policy goal,” he said, “The goal of our policies should be, obviously, minimize infections whenever possible, but to make sure people don’t get seriously ill.”

“The best ways of doing that are making sure people are vaccinated and boosted, as the Vice President is, and making sure we have plenty of therapeutics so, you know — so that that is available as well,” Jha said. “And that, to me, is the key lesson here.”

Read: Biden names Ashish Jha Covid-19 Response Coordinator (March 17, 2022)

Harris, 57, who is fully vaccinated and doubly boosted, was experiencing no symptoms. She was prescribed and has taken Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid after consulting with physicians, Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said.

“She has exhibited no symptoms, will isolate and continue to work from the Vice President’s residence. She has not been a close contact to the President or First Lady due to their respective recent travel schedules,” .Covid

“She will follow CDC guidelines and the advice of her physicians. The Vice President will return to the White House when she tests negative.”

Harris spent much of the last week in California and returned to Washington on Monday evening from Los Angeles. The last time the vice president saw Biden in person was on April 18, according to Harris’ office, the same day the White House hosted the Easter Egg Roll, the largest White House event since Biden assumed office last year.

Later at the White House briefing Jha wouldn’t agree with a reporter whether it’s “just a matter of time” before President Joe Biden also caught Covid.

“But of course, it is possible that the President, like any other American, could get Covid,” he said. “The bottom line is: He is vaccinated and boosted. He is very well protected.”

Read: Are Indian Americans well protected against the new Covid variant? (March 28, 2022)

“He’s got very good protocols around him to protect him from getting infected. But there is no 100 percent anything,” Jha said. “And I think the key focus has got to be: We got to continue protecting the President. That’s what the protocols around him are designed to do.”

Asked about the Covid situation, Jha said, “The key things that we need to be following are: ‘Are healthcare systems getting stressed?’ ‘Are people ending up in the hospital with severe illness?’ Obviously, ‘Are people dying at high rates?’ Those are, in my mind, the most important metrics.”

“And right now, while infection numbers are rising — and, of course, we all want to see infection numbers coming down — the good news is, because of the extraordinary work of this administration, we’ve got Americans much better protected.”

“And that means that we’re not seeing a huge bump in hospitalizations, that deaths are still declining. Obviously, we want to continue tracking those metrics,” Jha said.

“I believe we are at an inflection point. On one hand, we know that BA.2, the subvariant of Omicron, has become dominant; cases are rising across the country,” Jha said. “But hospitalizations are at the lowest level of the pandemic and deaths are continuing to fall.”

Read: Kamala Harris testing positive for coronavirus underscores rising cases in California (April 26, 2022)

“We’re down to about 300 deaths a day — still too many, still too high, but doing so much for the — better than we have throughout much of this pandemic.”

“Despite all of that progress — and I think a lot of that is driven by the fact that we have more than 200 million Americans vaccinated, more than 100 million Americans boosted — we know this virus is tricky,” he noted. “We know that the risk of potential surges, even of a potential new variant, remains out there.
“The good news is we are at a point where we have a lot more capabilities, a lot more tools to protect the American people: testing, vaccines, therapeutics,” Jha said. “These are the — sort of the pillars of how we manage the rest of this pandemic.”

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