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Delta goes to Washington, infects vaccinated Capitol staffers


White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. Psaki acknowledged that a White House staffer has tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been other recent breakthrough cases of vaccinated staff members.
Enlarge / White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on July 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. Psaki acknowledged that a White House staffer has tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been other recent breakthrough cases of vaccinated staff members.

Multiple White House staff members and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have tested positive for the pandemic coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated, Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in a White House press briefing Tuesday.

The confirmation came after reports that the Pelosi staffer and one White House official tested positive after they attended the same reception at a DC hotel last Wednesday, according to a report from Axios. Additionally, the Pelosi staffer was in contact with a delegation of Texas Democrats who had come to the US Capitol last week in an effort to thwart a GOP voting bill. Six of the more than 50 Texas Democrats have since tested positive for the pandemic coronavirus.

The infected Pelosi staffer had not been in direct contact with the speaker recently, and the infected White House official had not been in direct contact with the president recently, Axios reported.

In the press briefing Tuesday, Psaki said there had actually been multiple breakthrough infections among vaccinated staff at the White House, but she did not provide a tally of cases or a timeline for their infections—though she said she would check on additional information about the cases. She noted that the White House is prepared for such infections, which are typically mild or asymptomatic. The latest White House official and the Pelosi staffer are said to be mildly symptomatic.

The White House is following all the best health measures recommended by experts, including regular testing, Psaki said, and currently has no plans to update its mitigation measures.

On the hill

Meanwhile, PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins reported from the Capitol today that cases of the delta variant have been detected in the Capitol building. Multiple Capitol staffers who were fully vaccinated have been infected, along with one lawmaker, according to the Capitol’s attending physician. Desjardins also posted a picture of a long line of congressional staffers waiting to be tested for COVID-19.

Like at the White House, there are no plans to adjust health measures, such as mask wearing, at the Capitol.

Still, the presence of delta and the breakthrough infections are likely to ratchet up anxiety over the latest phase in the pandemic. With the rapid spread of the highly transmissible variant, cases and hospitalizations are rising across the country, mostly among the unvaccinated. Currently, 52 percent of the US has not been fully vaccinated, including 32 percent of adults.

Fully vaccinated people are largely protected from the variant, particularly against severe disease. But a small proportion of vaccinated people will develop breakthrough infections and may be able to spread the variant.

In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) said that the Texas delegation that traveled to the Capitol had been observing all the health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re grateful that 100 percent of us were vaccinated in advance… This delta variant is no joke.”





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