Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Thursday abruptly canceled her travel for the coming few days after two people associated with the Biden-Harris election campaign tested positive for coronavirus.
Related: Amy Coney Barrett refuses to tell Kamala Harris if she thinks climate change is happening
The news came as the two men vying for the White House in the 3 November election, incumbent Republican Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, were set to take part in separate but simultaneous town hall events to face voters’ questions on Thursday night – after their face-to-face debate was canceled when the president caught coronavirus.
Trump embarked on a frantic day of in-person campaigning on Thursday prior to the town hall evening event, and has fallen behind in the polls with less than three weeks to go, while Biden was set for a low-key day of online fundraising before his dueling event.
Then in the morning it emerged that Harris had been on a flight this week with both individuals two days before their positive Covid-19 tests. The individuals were Harris’s communications director, Liz Allen, and a “non-staff flight crew member”.
Because Harris and these contacts wore medical-grade N95 face masks during the flight and the infected individuals were not within 6ft of the vice-presidential nominee for more than 15 minutes, they do not meet the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of “close contact”.
For that reason, Harris does not meet full quarantine criteria, which would normally require an individual to be in isolation for two weeks.
But “out of an abundance of caution” the campaign canceled her normal schedule of events through Sunday, while promising a “robust and aggressive” round of online campaigning intended to reach far and wide.
The individuals who tested positive were not in contact with Biden, the campaign noted. But the uncertainty created and the hiatus in in-person events for Harris was an undoubted blow to the Democratic election campaign with less than three weeks before polling day.
The Harris campaign put out a statement saying the news of the positive tests came in late on Wednesday.
It added that the California senator and vice-presidential candidate intended to return to in-person campaigning on Monday.
Video: Biden: The longer that Trump is president, the worse he seems to get (FOX News)
The campaign said that Harris last tested negative for coronavirus on Wednesday and she will be tested again.
Meanwhile, since returning from a short stay in hospital earlier this month after contracting coronavirus, Trump had hit the trail again with