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Former Kamala Harris Staffer Criticizes White House Health Protocols

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


A former aide to Kamala Harris has come out and criticized the internal health and safety procedures at the White House regarding COVID-19.

“If this were the Trump administration, we would be talking about how they were putting staff and the health of their potentially unvaccinated household members in jeopardy,” former Harris aide Kavita Patel said, Politico reported.

Patel is now at the Brookings Institution and previously helped Harris develop her Medicare for all plan for her presidential campaign.

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“Dr. Patel is a primary care physician in Washington, DC. She also served in the Obama Administration as director of policy for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the White House. As a senior aide to Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s senior advisor, Dr. Patel played a critical role in policy development and evaluation of policy initiatives connected to health reform, financial regulatory reform, and economic recovery issues,” her biography at the Brookings institute said.

“Dr. Patel also has a deep understanding of Capitol Hill from her time spent on the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s staff. As deputy staff director on health, she served as a policy analyst and trusted aide to the Senator and was part of the senior staff of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee under Sen. Kennedy’s leadership. She also has an extensive research and clinical background, having worked as a researcher at the RAND Corporation and as a practicing physician in both California and Oregon. She currently advises health care technology and services organizations through New Enterprise Associates,” it said.

Politico reported.

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White House officials have clashed over the on-site medical unit’s testing policy and transparency around breakthrough infections among personnel, according to four officials familiar with the disputes.

The internal conflicts highlight the difficulty of implementing safe, responsible Covid protocols at offices across the country — even offices filled with policymakers helping set the standards for others.

Noting President JOE BIDEN’s pledge to expand testing access nationwide, some White House aides have argued that there should be on-demand testing for workers in the building — who have been required to be vaccinated, wear masks and submit to regular testing. The president announced a more stringent vaccine mandate for federal employees, including White House staff, last week.

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Testing at the White House is largely done for people experiencing symptoms, those identified by the contact tracing team, or via the regularly scheduled testing. But the medical unit does not always provide a test if someone asks for one, even if the staffer requesting it believes they’ve recently been exposed. Some people who have asked for tests have been directed instead to local testing sites at places like CVS.

But a White House official defended the program and said that it was developed after consulting with top doctors.

“Our medical unit fields inquiries from many individuals every day, and works with each individual to create a custom plan based on the specifics of their situation,” the official said to Politico. “White House staff with questions about our testing program are always encouraged to ask them to the operations team.”

“Information is shared exclusively with those who may be at risk in order to support individual employee privacy, while still effectively keeping all members of our campus community safe,” the official said.

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In July, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the White House expected, and was prepared for, breakthrough cases, which are positive COVID tests from those who are vaccinated, and said “cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild.”

“The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing.  This is another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalizations.  And, of course, we wish our colleague a speedy recovery,” she said.

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