US health secretary tests positive for Covid on Germany trip

Mr Becerra was in Berlin for a meeting of health ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Thursday and Friday.

Virus Outbreak Health Secretary
Virus Outbreak Health Secretary

Another member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet has tested positive for Covid-19.

US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra tested positive for the virus on Wednesday while visiting Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said.

Mr Becerra is fully vaccinated and was experiencing mild symptoms.

HHS spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim said he will continue to work in isolation.

Mr Becerra was last at the White House last Thursday. He is not considered a close contact of Mr Biden.

Mr Becerra was in Berlin for a meeting of health ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Thursday and Friday.

The meeting’s focus is on drawing lessons from the pandemic, protecting the vulnerable and unvaccinated from Covid-19, and how to ease the strain on health systems.

On Tuesday, Mr Becerra met with Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach. He separately met the head of Germany’s disease control agency, Lothar Wieler, two of the country’s top virus experts and the management of Berlin’s biggest hospital, Charite.

None of their offices immediately responded to requests for comment.

Pictures posted on social media of the meetings with Mr Wieler showed the men standing close together outside without masks, but wearing masks while indoors.

Prior to Berlin, Mr Becerra attended a meeting of health ministers in Bali, Indonesia.

A wave of coronavirus cases has spread recently through Washington’s political class, infecting Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, White House staffers and lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ashley Biden
Ashley Biden (Mark Duncan/AP)

Meanwhile, Ashley Biden, the daughter of President Biden and Jill Biden, also has Covid-19 and is no longer accompanying her mother on a trip through Latin America, the White House said on Wednesday.

She is not considered a close contact to either of her parents, said Michael LaRosa, the first lady’s spokesperson.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it had been “several days” since the president and first lady last saw their daughter.

Ashley Biden’s positive test result was announced just before Jill Biden’s flight Wednesday to Ecuador, the first stop on her six-day Latin America trip.

The first lady also planned to visit Panama and Costa Rica before returning to Washington next week.

It is the second time that coronavirus has caused Ashley Biden, 40, to miss out on traveling abroad with her mother.

Earlier in May, she was bumped from the first lady’s trip to Eastern Europe to visit with Ukrainian refugees after learning that she had been a close contact of someone who later tested positive for Covid-19.

Ashley Biden had tested negative after that exposure, Mr LaRosa said.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” with an infected person as spending 15 minutes or more with them over a 24-hour period.

The CDC says people with “close contact” do not need to quarantine if they are up to date on their vaccines but should wear well-fitting masks around other people for 10 days after the contact.

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