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CNN reporter leaves WH COVID coordinator stumbling when confronted over Kamala Harris violating CDC guidance

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A CNN reporter grilled White House COVID response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha on Friday over Vice President Kamala Harris skirting CDC guidelines for COVID-19 exposure.

What did Harris do?

After announcing that President Joe Biden had contracted COVID-19, the White House disclosed that Vice President Kamala Harris was a "close contact" of the president.

Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that someone deemed a "close contact" wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days. But that is not what Harris did.

Instead, Harris removed her face mask and hugged Birmingham, Alabama, Mayor Randall Woodfin on Friday during an event in Washington, D.C. She also spoke without a mask.

What did Jha say?

At the White House press briefing, CNN reporter MJ Lee repeatedly questioned Dr. Jha about Harris violating CDC guidelines. Jha, however, refused to directly address Harris' actions.

"Vice President Harris is a close contact of the president’s, and the CDC guidance says that if you’re a close contact, you want to wear a well-fitting mask when you’re around other people. She just spoke at a conference in D.C. and she hugged someone without a mask on. She was also maskless for most of that conversation. Would you have recommended that she keep her mask on, given that that is the CDC guidance?" Lee asked.

Jha qualified his response by noting that he had not "been tracking the vice president's activities," then asserted that Harris is following CDC guidelines.

"I guess she isn’t following the CDC guidance though — right? — if she is hugging someone without a mask on?" Lee pushed back. "I just wanted your clarification on that."

07/22/22: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Dr. Ashish Jha youtu.be

After acknowledging that "the CDC guidance is clear," Jha refused to offer an additional response, again citing not having seen the incident.

"She took off the mask and she embraced someone. You don’t have to see it. I mean, that’s what happened," Lee fired back.

"Yeah, so usually when we think about people having contact, it’s for an extended period of time," Jha responded. "Again, I didn’t see the hug. I don’t know how long the hug lasted. But it’s very hard for me to comment on something I really didn’t see."

Anything else?

A spokesperson for Harris also declined to address Harris skirting CDC guidance.

"This morning, Vice President Harris tested negative for COVID-19 and is experiencing no symptoms," Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said.

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