Vice President Kamala Harris (seen above in Washington, DC, on Thursday) caused a stir when she told the Los Angeles Times this week that the Biden administration ‘didn’t see [the Delta and Omicron variants] coming’
The White House has been scrambling to contain the fallout from Vice President Kamala Harris’s statement on Friday in which she appeared to take a swipe at her boss, President Joe Biden, for not anticipating the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus that have fueled a nationwide surge in newly diagnosed cases.
Harris on Friday took a swipe at Biden for declaring ‘independence’ from Covid on July 4 – and appeared to blame scientists for the administration’s failure to be better prepared for Omicron and Delta as the new strains threaten to send the country spiraling back to pandemic shutdowns.
Harris, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, said: ‘We have not been victorious over it.
‘I don’t think that in any regard anyone can claim victory when, you know, there are 800,000 people who are dead because of this virus.’
Confirmed cases of Omicron reached 830 as of Saturday morning – a 50 percent increase from Friday – and the variant has now been detected in nearly every state. Kentucky, Arkansas, Maine, Kansas and Wyoming confirmed new Omicron cases, bringing the total to 45 states.
The vice president insisted that the virologists ‘upon whose advice and direction we have relied’ were blind to the next wave.
‘We didn’t see Delta coming,’ Harris told the paper.
‘I think most scientists did not – upon whose advice and direction we have relied – didn’t see Delta coming.’
An administration official tried to put a positive spin on the vice president’s remarks, insisting that she meant that the president and his aides did not foresee the mutations.
‘The vice president’s comments referred to the exact kind of mutation,’ said a statement by a Harris adviser obtained by Fox News on Saturday.
‘The administration knew mutations were possible, it [is] the reason we ordered extra tests, extra gear and extra PPE [personal protective equipment].’
The adviser said that the administration kept promoting vaccinations, masking and social distancing in case new variants would appear.
‘It is the reason the president, vice president and our entire administration warned early and often that the best way to get on the other side of the pandemic is to get vaccinated,’ the aide said.
‘We were and continue to be prepared.’
Kamala Harris is seen on Friday speaking to The Los Angeles Times in her Washington DC office
Also on Friday Harris appeared on Charlamagne Tha God’s show on Comedy Central for an interview, which became uncomfortably heated after the radio host asked the vice president: ‘So who’s the real president of this country? Is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden?’
Since coming into office in January of this year, the administration has made the case that it was manned by competent officials who would oversee the country’s return to normal.
But the surging case count nationwide has upset the narrative. Still, administration officials are hanging their hopes on continued vaccinations as a way out of the pandemic.
‘[The vice president] and the president have warned for months, they said the best way to get on the other side of this is to get vaccinated,’ the aide said.
‘Why were they doing that? Because they were clear mutations could occur.’
The clarification comes just a day after Harris got into a heated exchange with Comedy Central host Charlamagne Tha God who pressed her on whether Biden or Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic legislator who has stood in the way of the president’s key agenda items, is ‘the real president.’
Appearing on Comedy Central with Charlamagne – real name Lenard Larry McKelvey – Harris was asked why she and Biden were unable to pass their flagship $1.75 trillion Build Back Better legislation.
His question so angered Harris that her aide, Sanders, could be heard off-camera on the other end of the remote interview, shouting: ‘I’m so sorry Charlamagne, it’s Symone, we have to wrap.’
On December 14 Harris listened as Biden spoke at a DNC holiday party (above)
‘She can hear me,’ Charlamagne chuckles. Sanders responds: ‘Can you hear me now? I’m sorry but we have to wrap. I’m sorry to interrupt.’
‘They’re acting like they can’t hear me, yo,’ Charlamagne says, turning to a producer off-camera, implying that Harris’ team was faking technical issues.
Harris, looking tense, stared at Charlamagne and replied, ‘I can hear you,’ allowing the interviewer to finally continue with his question.
‘So who’s the real president of this country? Is it Joe Manchin or Joe Biden?’ Charlamagne asks.
‘Come on, Charlamagne,’ Harris says. ‘Come on. It’s Joe Biden.’
Charlamagne replies: ‘I can’t tell sometimes.’
Harris, growing visibly angry, wags her finger at the host and says: ‘No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
‘It’s Joe Biden, and don’t start talking like a Republican about asking whether or not he’s president. And it’s Joe Biden. And I’m vice president and my name is Kamala Harris.’
Sanders, the aide who attempted to cut off the interview, is the vice president’s chief spokeswoman, who is one of at least four top aides to announce their departures from Harris’ staff in recent weeks.
‘She can hear me,’ Charlamagne chuckled.
Sanders responded: ‘Can you hear me now? I’m sorry but we have to wrap. I’m sorry to interrupt.’
‘They’re acting like they can’t hear me, yo,’ Charlamagne said, turning to a producer off-camera, implying that Harris’s team is faking technical issues.
Harris, looking tense, stared at Charlamagne and replied, ‘I can hear you,’ allowing the interviewer to finally continue with his question.
Just weeks ago Harris was branded a ‘bully’ who inflicted constant-soul destroying criticism’ on her office staff in a damaging expose by The Washington Post following a mass exodus from her office.
Gin Duran, a Harris aide who quit after working with her for five months, said there’s a reason her office is experiencing such a large staff turnover.
‘One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her,’ Duran told The Post. ‘Who are the next talented people you’re going to bring in and burn through and then have (them) pretend they’re retiring for positive reasons.’
The beleaguered vice president spoke to the media outlets as the Omicron variant spreads nationwide, with 44 states and Puerto Rico now having detected cases as of Saturday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The number of confirmed Omicron cases in the US has nearly doubled in a period of 24 hours, with the variant now confirmed in all but six states.
Omicron was first discovered last month in South Africa but is now taking hold in the US, as well. As of Saturday morning, there were 830 cases of Omicron confirmed by DNA sequencing across the country – a 97 percent increase from Friday morning’s tally.
In reality, the true number of Omicron cases is much higher, as only 1 to 2 percent of all cases are sequenced for variant markers.
The CDC estimates that Omicron accounts for at least 13 percent of all new cases in New York, which on Friday recorded its highest single-day tally of new Covid-19 cases ever at 21,027.
The Big Apple has been particularly hard-hit, again, with the number of cases doubling in three days.
Earlier this week, Governor Kathy Hochul reinstated controversial mask mandates for most indoor venues.
The rise in cases in the past three days caused Dr Jay Varma, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s top medical advisor, to tweet ‘we’ve never seen this before in New York City.’
Testing has now confirmed the presence of Omicron in every US state except for Oklahoma, Montana, North and South Dakota, Indiana, and Vermont, though the eventual arrival of the highly transmissible variant in every state seems assured.
Highly vaccinated states in the Northeast seem to be struggling the most at the moment as cold weather, waning immunity and the new variant all contribute to a new case surge.
Questions have been asked as to why the US was not swifter to react, when the Omicron variant was noted first in South Africa, and then caused havoc in the UK.
‘We didn’t see Omicron coming. And that’s the nature of what this, this awful virus has been, which as it turns out, has mutations and variants,’ Harris told The LA Times.
The mutations and variants have been long known as a feature of coronaviruses.
By the time Harris and Biden took over, in January 2021, the WHO had already identified three ‘variants of concern’ – Alpha, Beta and Gamma.
Two more – Delta and Omicron – emerged in the Biden-Harris era.
Harris denied that the administration had been complacent about the end of the pandemic
Biden on July 4 celebrated ‘independence’ from the virus, in a positive speech which some have now said was misguided.
‘While the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives,’ the president said.
‘It no longer paralyzes our nation. And it’s within our power to make sure it never does again.’
Harris said one of her biggest regrets is that she had not been able to do more to combat myths about the virus and vaccine.
‘I would take that more seriously,’ she said of the misinformation.
‘The biggest threat still to the American people is the threat to the unvaccinated.
‘And most people who believe in the efficacy of the vaccine and the seriousness of the virus have been vaccinated. That troubles me deeply.’
Harris told the paper she understood the frustration many felt at still being faced with a surge in Covid, despite there now being a vaccine and booster available.
She said she appreciated that many were angry at having to cancel Christmas plans once again, and was well aware of the toll that uncertainty and anxiety took on mental health.
‘I get it. I get it. I totally get it,’ she said.
‘I mean, you know, one of the concerns that I have is the undiagnosed and untreated trauma at various degrees that everyone has experienced.’
The vice president was highly tipped to be the Democrat nominee in 2024 before she took office, and has failed to impress.
Less than half of Americans approve of the job she is doing.
A new Hill/HarrisX poll released on Tuesday shows 43 percent of registered voters approve of Harris’s performance, while 50 per cent say they disapprove.
The same poll taken December 6-7 shows 7 percent of respondents are unsure of their approval of the vice president.
Harris would not say whether she felt that her gender and race were a factor in her low approval ratings.
‘I’ll leave that to other people to evaluate,’ she said.
A new poll released Tuesday shows only 43 per cent of registered voters approve of the job Kamala Harris is doing as vice president
Kamala Harris’s gaffes
Asked by NBC’s Lester Holt why she hadn’t yet, in her role as Biden’s border tsar, visited the U.S.-Mexico border, she replied: ‘And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t … understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.’
Harris was asked about proposals to enforce voter ID, and said that she was opposed to it because people outside the cities may not be able to print off copies of their documentation.
‘There are a whole lot of people, especially people who live in rural communities, who don’t — there’s no Kinko’s, there’s no Office Max near them,’ she said, to widespread mockery.
A student attending an event to promote voting said that Israel was conducting an ‘ethnic genocide’ in Palestine.
Harris responded: ‘Your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth cannot be suppressed, and it must be heard.’
Her office spent the next day trying to calm furious pro-Israel politicians and diplomats.
Harris was found to have used child actors in the recording of a video promoting space, with children gushing about how much they loved science and technology.
The vice president, on a visit to Paris, was mocked for meeting a group of French scientists working in a lab, and speaking to them with a French accent.
And asked about the exodus of her staff, Harris said she would rather ‘talk about how they’ve been mentored and nurtured and supported’ by her.
Harris’s defensiveness about the administration’s response to Covid came as Biden himself warned of a ‘winter of severe illness and death’ for the unvaccinated.
Unvaccinated people are being hit especially hard by this surge, with official city data showing that 804.46 out of every 100,000 testing positive for the virus during the week that ended on December 5 – nearly doubling from 415.99 cases per 100,000 a week earlier.
In Washington DC, the case rate per 100,000 remains much lower than many other states, at 39, but the figure is rapidly rising.
The city has experienced a 230 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks.
Like New York, it is a densely populated city that also struggled when the virus initially broke out in spring 2020.
Cases have also doubled, and then some, in Hawaii over the past two weeks.
The islands have suffered a 140 percent increase in new cases over the past two weeks.
While cases seem to be rising on the east coast – and Hawaii – the Midwest and the Great Plains states are suffering a wave of deaths.
Michigan leads the nation in deaths at the moment, with 1.16 out of every 100,000 residents dying from Covid every day.
Hospitals in the state are being swarmed by new cases, and officials fear that situation will only get worse.
Indiana is also among the nationwide leaders in Covid deaths, averaging 0.8 deaths per 100,000 residents every day.
Also in the Midwest, Ohio (0.71 deaths per 100,000 each day), Wisconsin (0.69) and Minnesota (0.62) are dealing with recent case surges.
Montana finds itself right behind Michigan in death rate at the moment, and is suffering the most of states in the northwestern plains.
The state is averaging 1.15 deaths per every 100,000 residents every day, and especially worrying total for a place with a small, spread out, population.
Wyoming is dealing with a surge of its own, with 0.74 of every 100,000 residents dying from Covid each day.
In North Dakota, its 0.62, and 0.61 in South Dakota. Colorado is recording 0.69 deaths per every 100,000 residents every day.
Cases are decreasing in these states, though, down 49 percent in Montana, 34 percent in Wyoming, 19 percent in North Dakota and 19 percent in South Dakota as well, signaling they may be past the worst of the recent surge.
Other states like Pennsylvania (0.92 deaths per 100,000 every day), Arizona (0.96), West Virginia (0.84) and Colorado (0.69) are also among the nation’s leaders in Covid deaths.
In the south, cases are also rising across many states. Florida is currently posting a 127 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks, though that figure is unreliable as the state does not regularly report cases.
Alabama (70 percent increase in cases over the past two weeks), Georgia (60 percent), Texas (89 percent) and Virginia (62 percent) are all experiencing sharp case increases, leading the region.
Cases are declining for states on the west coast, though, with California posting an 11 percent decrease in cases, Alaska down 35 percent, Washington down four percent and Oregon down three percent.