Covid Live Updates: Biden Aide Tests Positive for Coronavirus
WASHINGTON — A White House aide who traveled with President Biden to Scotland tested positive for the coronavirus this week and remains in quarantine abroad, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a medical issue.
The aide tested positive on Tuesday after taking a lateral flow test, which was a daily requirement to attend the United Nations climate summit held in Glasgow, but has not shown any symptoms of Covid-19. President Biden was not in close contact with the aide, the official said.
The aide has taken subsequent tests, but those came back inconclusive, the official said. The aide remains in quarantine in Scotland, and is waiting on the results of a PCR test.
Mr. Biden tested negative for the virus on Tuesday, the official said. The president, who is 78, received a booster shot in September.
Aides who had close contact with the person who tested positive traveled separately from the president from Scotland to the United States, the official said, and have tested negative since. The positive case was first reported by Bloomberg.
On Sunday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary who stayed behind from the trip at the last minute because of a family emergency, said that she had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“Thanks to the vaccine, I have only experienced mild symptoms, which has enabled me to continue working from home,” Ms. Psaki said on Sunday.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House principal deputy press secretary, traveled on the trip while Ms. Psaki stayed home and went into quarantine, and has been holding press briefings at the White House this week.
Mr. Biden traveled abroad with a large delegation that included his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken. The president’s entourage also included several press officials who interacted both with other White House officials and with numerous journalists covering the trip.
In July, after a White House staff member tested positive for the virus, Ms. Psaki warned that there would be more breakthrough cases and said that precautions were in place to protect the president.
Europe is again experiencing near-record levels of coronavirus cases, and could experience half a million Covid-related deaths in the next three months, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.
Europe accounted for 59 percent of the world’s newly reported coronavirus cases last week, and for nearly half the world’s Covid-related deaths, Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s director for the 53 countries in its European region, told reporters.
Dr. Kluge said that there were 1.8 million new cases and about 24,000 deaths in the European region in the past week.
“We are at another critical point of pandemic resurgence,” Dr. Kluge said. “Europe is back at the epicenter of the pandemic — where we were one year ago.”
The region is reporting an average of more than 30 new cases a day for every 100,000 people, a rate that has almost doubled since mid-September. Eighteen of the 20 countries around the world that are reporting the most new cases per day, relative to their populations, are in Europe or the part of Central Asia that the W.H.O. includes in its European region.
Covid-related deaths in Europe are also increasing.
“If we stay on this trajectory, we could see another half a million Covid-19 deaths in Europe and Central Asia by the first of February next year,” Dr. Kluge said.
The surge in infections, driven by the Delta variant, is affecting all age groups, Dr. Kluge said, but it has been deadliest among older people. Three-quarters of those who died last week were over 65, and most were not fully vaccinated, he said.
Hospitals are being flooded with Covid patients across the region; in 43 of the 53 countries, hospitals are likely to face high to extreme stress in the next three months, the W.H.O. projected.
Dr. Kluge said the virus was surging because precautions like mask-wearing were relaxed and because too few people have been vaccinated.
Eight countries in the region have vaccinated more than 70 percent of their populations, but two have managed to immunize less than 10 percent, he said. Hospital admission rates were high, he said, in the countries where vaccination rates were low.
Outbreaks have also appeared in unvaccinated populations in countries with relatively high rates of vaccination. In Italy, which has fully vaccinated 72 percent of its population and recently imposed stringent national rules to encourage workers to get vaccinated, the city of Trieste became a hotbed of infections two weeks after thousands of vaccine skeptics gathered to protest the new rules.
Dr. Kluge also emphasized the continued need for basic precautions like mask-wearing, social distance and good indoor ventilation, and he took note of projections that 188,000 lives could be saved in Europe in the next three months if 95 percent of the population wore masks.
“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19 to preventing them from happening in the first place,” Dr. Kluge said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached a deal with nine labor unions regarding how the city will handle unvaccinated employees under its tough new vaccination mandate. In exchange, the unions have agreed to drop their legal efforts to overturn the new policy, the city announced Thursday.
The nine unions collectively represent about 88,000 of the 160,000 employees covered by the latest mandate, which requires all city employees to get vaccinated for the coronavirus with no option to take a weekly test. The unions include District Council 37, Teamsters Local 237, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831, and SEIU Local 300.
“We have reached an agreement that gives our members options,” said Henry Garrido, the executive director of District Council 37, the largest public employees union.
“Thank you to these unions for working with us to keep New Yorkers safe,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Since going into effect on Nov. 1, the city’s mandate has driven the vaccination rate among the city’s 370,000 workers up to 92 percent. About 9,000 employees have been placed on unpaid leave for refusing vaccination. An additional 12,000 unvaccinated employees are being permitted to work with weekly testing while they await a decision on a religious or medical exemption.
The city has been trying to reach agreements with 42 unions, but most of them have not hammered out a deal with City Hall. Those include the police and fire unions, which have pushed back the hardest against the mandate.
Under the agreements announced Thursday, union members have agreed to follow many of the same rules set up by an arbitrator to govern how the vaccine mandate is affecting the city’s teachers. The city’s vaccine mandate went into effect for about 150,000 education employees in early October.
Among the terms are strict rules that will limit religious exemptions to vaccination for city workers. Requests will only be considered for employees who are members of organized and recognized religions, accompanied by a letter from clergy.
At the city schools, that policy in…