White House and Pelosi staff test positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The White House projected calm even as it confirmed a breakthrough infection on its own staff on Tuesday, sticking to its message that vaccines and safety protocols would protect Americans from coronavirus while

WASHINGTON – The White House projected calm even as it confirmed a breakthrough infection on its own staff on Tuesday, sticking to its message that vaccines and safety protocols would protect Americans from coronavirus while the Delta variant travels across the country.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that a fully vaccinated staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office reported confirmed that a member of his staff had tested positive.

The Pelosi staff member has had contact with Texas lawmakers who are in Washington to prevent a voting bill from being passed in their home state. Six members of this delegation have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent days.

Nearly 60 Democrats in the Texas legislature came to Washington earlier this month, using their time outside their home state to try to persuade Congress to pass federal legislation that would supersede the efforts of the Texas Republicans. to pass restrictive voting laws. Lawmakers quickly secured meetings with Vice President Kamala Harris, Senator Joe Manchin III, DW.Va. and other Washington politicians during their first week on Capitol Hill.

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the staff member tested positive on Monday and was staying off campus awaiting further testing. The individual has not had close contact with the president or other White House directors or staff, Psaki added.

“We know there will be groundbreaking cases, but as this incident shows, cases in people vaccinated are generally mild,” she said.

Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said the Pelosi employee had not had any contact with the speaker since the exhibit.

“The entire press service is working remotely today, with the exception of people who have had no exposure to the individual or who have had a recent negative test,” he said in a report. communicated. “Our office will continue to closely follow the guidelines of the Attending Physician’s Office. “

In a Tuesday afternoon Cabinet meeting, President Joe Biden said Americans “must remain vigilant, especially with the delta variant that exists.” He made no mention of the recent White House affair.

“I know people are watching the number of cases increase again and are wondering, quite frankly, what this means to them,” Biden said. “But overall, overall, covid-19 deaths are falling dramatically, dramatically [over] over the past six months.

In addition to mingling with lawmakers from Maryland, Virginia and Georgia at a reception in their honor at a restaurant in downtown Columbia on Wednesday, Democrats in Texas also held a joint press conference in Alexandria. , Virginia.

Some of them had to attend a church service organized by Virginia Del. Luke Torian, a Democrat, Sunday in Dumfries, Virginia. The service was canceled on Saturday due to the coronavirus outbreak, a staff member from the Virginia House of Delegates told the Washington Post. .

Tests are now underway for people who have contacted the Texan delegation.

Billy Mitchell, a Georgia State Representative and Chairman of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, hosted a reception for Texans at a Washington restaurant last Wednesday night. The restaurant prepared for 100 guests, and “the place was packed,” Mitchell, a Democrat, said in an interview.

“I have to take a test this week, and we advise all of our members who were there to do the same,” he said, adding that he had not heard of any cases of covid arising specifically from the event.

Attendees included state lawmakers from across the country who were in town for a leadership retreat and NBCSL board training, he said.

Of the. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, said he was one of five lawmakers in that state who attended the press conference with Texas lawmakers last week. He said none of his colleagues in Maryland were showing symptoms or got sick, but asked them and his group’s executive director, who was also present, to get tested “out of caution. “.

Barnes said his executive director had been in contact with his counterpart in Texas and was told that all of their members who were at the event were tested daily and none had tested positive.

“Those who came down were their white colleagues,” he said. “They are also waiting to see if it is a false positive.”

Of the. Debra Davis, D-Prince George, who attended the press conference and a reception, said she has been considering getting tested since learning of the positive cases this weekend. She said she felt good but didn’t know if she was exposed. She also questioned the frequency with which vaccinated people are infected.

“My first thought: I’m going back to the bubble,” she said.

Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democrats, said the outbreak is just the latest example of why getting the vaccine is so important.

“We are observing revolutionary cases in the vaccinated population. . . and a wide range of professions and parts of the world, and so, I think that’s just a reminder. . . It is really very important that people are vaccinated as soon as possible, ”he said at a press conference on Tuesday.

But the lawmaker said he does not regret coming to Washington in an effort to bring national attention to the plight of Texas residents who want to expand their voting rights.

“We don’t regret coming to DC at all,” he said. “It was very important to protect the freedom to vote as we left Texas. . . . It was equally important that we take this moment to stress the need for federal voting rights legislation. This is what we have been doing continuously for the past eight days.

Back in Austin, some GOP state lawmakers said they still wanted their missing colleagues to return – even if they were potentially infected.

“We have the protocols in place – they can still participate in quarantine status,” said Texas State Representative James White, a Republican. He added that the outbreak in Washington led him to speak to his chief of staff about the possibility of quickly resuming testing staff.

Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican, said masks have always been optional in his office.

“Of course, I hope there won’t be any long term side effects,” Cain said of the infection among House Democrats. “I don’t think they expected their trip to Washington to go viral like it did.”

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Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post, Laura Vozzella in Richmond, Va., And Eva Ruth in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.