A senior aide to President-elect Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday after joining Biden for a Tuesday campaign trip to Georgia.
Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) accompanied Biden as he stumped for two Democratic Senate candidates and later developed symptoms, according to Biden’s transition office.
His positive test follows the Wednesday diagnosis of a journalist who also joined the trip.
Biden, 78, was filmed removing his mask to speak with people after giving a speech, but his transition office said Thursday he’s at little risk.
“Richmond was not in close contact, as defined by the CDC, with the President-elect,” Biden spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said.
“President-elect Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected.”
Bedingfield said that Richmond, 47, was not on the plane from Delaware to Georgia with Biden. The journalist who tested positive is believed to have been on the flight as part of the traveling press pool.
Richmond, who will serve as a White House senior adviser to Biden, “developed symptoms on Wednesday… and took a rapid test which came back positive,” Bedingfield said. “As is our standard protocol after an initial positive test, he took a PCR test on Thursday… which also came back positive.”
Biden traveled to Georgia to campaign for Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff against Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The outcome of the Jan. 5 runoffs will dictate control of the Senate next year.
Bedingfield said the transition office “determined that he was in CDC-defined close contact with two individuals, neither of whom are Biden, Warnock or Ossoff staff. Those individuals, two people who drove his car during the campaign trip, have been notified and are self-quarantining consistent with CDC guidelines.”
The former vice president this week coughed and cleared his throat more than usual, including during his Tuesday speech, but has consistently tested negative for the virus.
The news of a second member of Biden’s entourage coming down with the virus is a worrying development, especially due to the president-elect’s advanced age. President Trump tested positive for the virus in October and was hospitalized for four days after news broke that a close aide who joined him on trips, Hope Hicks, tested positive.
Biden’s interactions without a mask in Georgia prompted Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey to tweet: “This photo of @JoeBiden taking his mask down briefly in Georgia has to be part of why [Dr. Anthony] Fauci wants @JoeBiden to get a vaccine ASAP.”
Biden is not scheduled to receive a first dose of the recently approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine until next week. He will take office on Jan. 20 as the oldest-ever incoming president.
Bedingfield said that “Richmond’s interactions with the President-elect happened in open air, were masked and totaled less than 15 consecutive minutes, the CDC’s timeframe for close contact. Richmond traveled to Georgia on his own and not with the President-elect.”
The news comes amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases and deaths. The virus has since March infected nearly 17 million Americans and killed more than 310,000 mostly elderly victims.