Biden press secretary has COVID-19, won’t travel to Europe

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday she tested positive for COVID-19 again and will not be accompanying President Joe Biden to Europe this week for medical urgent meetings with global counterparts on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden tested negative on Tuesday, she said.

Psaki’s reinfection is the latest COVID-19 scare for the White House after recent positive tests for the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris and Prime Minister of Ireland, who was in the nation’s capital last week for a series of celebrations in Patrick’s Day person with Biden and other officials.

The fears come as the Biden administration tries to help the United States return to its pre-pandemic norms, even as cases rise in Europe due to a new variant of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

PSAKI tweeted that she had taken a lab test for COVID-19 as part of her preparation for the trip, which begins on Wednesday, and was later informed of a positive result.

She said she had two “socially distanced meetings” with Biden on Monday and he was not considered a “close contact” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

PSAKI tweeted and released a statement shortly before she entered the White House press room for her daily briefing, accompanied by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who joined her to discuss the trip.

After a brief delay, Deputy White House Press Secretary Chris Meagher entered and introduced Sullivan to a waiting White House press corps. Meagher read a statement about the changes caused by Psaki’s medical condition and about Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing. He asked no questions, while Sullivan made a statement and answered questions about Biden’s trip.

PSAKI said she would take CDC advice and no longer accompany Biden to Belgium, where he would take part in a series of meetings with European and world leaders on Russia’s war in Ukraine, and Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine and welcomed millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war.

PSAKI said she only experienced mild symptoms and was vaccinated against COVID-19. She said that under White House COVID-19 protocols, she will be working from home and plans to return to work at the end of a five-day isolation period and testing negative.

As coronavirus cases have plummeted in the United States this year and states and localities have dropped their mask-wearing requirements, so has the White House. As of March 1, neither White House staff nor reporters were required to wear face masks inside the building.

Doug Emhoff, the vice president’s husband, tested positive on March 15, the White House announced. Harris, meanwhile, continued to test negative.

The following day, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 while attending a dinner with US leaders including Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Martin was scheduled to go to the White House on March 17 to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Biden, but instead made those video appearances because of his diagnosis.

This is the second time that COVID-19 has forced Psaki to give up accompanying Biden abroad. She sat out of last fall’s trip to Rome and Glasgow, Scotland, after revealing she had tested positive.

Mary I. Bruner