Joe Biden Not At Risk Of COVID Despite Pelosi Kissing Him, Psaki Says

Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden hold hands
Getty | Tom Williams

News & Politics
Damir Mujezinovic

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday.

Pelosi is apparently asymptomatic and feeling fine, but it appears likely the Democrat passed on the virus to other people, given that she attended an event on Wednesday with dozens of other people.

Former President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden, and numerous other prominent figures were present, and Pelosi came in contact with many of them -- she was even photographed kissing Biden on the cheek.

According to the White House, however, there is no reason for concern.

Close Contact

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, the White House Press Secretary said Biden is not considered a close contact of Pelosi's per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines.

"The way a close contact is defined, it's not arbitrary, it's not something made up by the White House, it's CDC guidelines, and how they define it is being within six feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period," Psaki said, as reported by The Hill.

"They were not. All of their interactions were publicly available, I think you saw them, and that's how that assessment is made," she added.

Reporters Grill Psaki

Jen Psaki speaks at a news conference

Reporters present at the briefing grilled Psaki, noting that Biden and Pelosi were standing close to each other for about fourteen minutes.

"If he were a close contact, the only difference -- I don't even know if it would be a difference -- would be a five-day test, a test five days after your contact," the White House press secretary said.

One reporter then noted that the CDC recommends that people who close contact with COVID-positive individuals mask up.

"If he is a close contact, that is what exactly he will do," she replied.

How Was Biden Not In Close Contact?

President Joe Biden delivers a speech
Getty | Chip Somodevilla

If Pelosi kissed Biden on the cheek, how can their interaction not be considered a close contact?

According to Psaki, the CDC defines close contact as "15 minutes of contact within a set period of time within six feet" and this "did not meet that bar."

"It does not mean that no one will get COVID around the world who have a close contact, it just means we are defining for all of you whether the president and their interaction met the definition of the CDC of a close contact," she said.


Unsurprisingly, many found Psaki's explanations rather unconvincing.

"So basically Jen Psaki's argument in this briefing is that if a person with COVID sneezed directly on Joe Biden, he wouldn't be a 'close contact' because the sneeze lasted less than 15 minutes," Heritage Foundation Communications Director John Cooper wrote on Twitter.

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding also took to Twitter to weigh in on the situation, saying that it is "very possible" Pelosi was already contagious when she interacted with Biden.