The staffer for Pelosi (D-California) helped guide the Texans around the US Capitol last week, after they fled to DC in a bid to block a Republican election integrity bill in the state legislature. That staffer then attended a rooftop reception at a hotel on K Street last Wednesday with the White House official who later tested positive, Axios reported on Tuesday.
Both individuals were “mildly symptomatic” and fully vaccinated, the publication noted. Their names have not been disclosed. So far, six of the 50 Texas Democrats have tested positive for the virus, despite being fully vaccinated as well.
Confirming that “a fully vaccinated” official tested positive on Monday, the White House said they were not allowed onto the campus, and that the medical unit conducted contact tracing interviews and determined “no close contact” with principals – e.g. President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris – and staff.
Harris had previously met with the Texas Democrat delegation, but said she would not quarantine as it didn’t qualify as “close contact.” Her own test over the weekend came back negative.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday that the aide in question had “mild symptoms.” She also confirmed that there have been additional “breakthrough infections” among vaccinated staffers, but would not say how many or when. In keeping with the administration’s commitment to transparency, they will release the information proactively if “commissioned officers” – that is, presidential assistants – test positive, she said.
Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill identified the staffer as “a fully vaccinated senior spokesperson in the speaker’s press office,” and said the entire office was working remotely, except for those who had no exposure to the individual or recently tested negative. The staffer “has had no contact with the speaker since exposure,” Hammill added.
Asked about it on Tuesday, Pelosi said it was “all the more reason for all of us to be vaccinated as he was. Wear a mask. Take every precaution.”
Though both Biden and Pelosi are fully vaccinated, there are concerns their advanced age – 78 and 81, respectively – might put them at greater risk of complications if infected.
Psaki also disagreed with reporters who asked if the Texans’ visit amounted to a “superspreader” event, which hasn’t stopped some in the media and in Congress from using the term, however.
Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of the Capitol, has confirmed that “several” congressional staff and one member of Congress have become infected with the coronavirus, despite being fully vaccinated. He blamed the so-called Delta variant of the virus, said to be more contagious than the original strain.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has threatened to arrest the fugitive lawmakers for disrupting the legislature’s proceedings. The 50 Democrats have pledged to stay in DC – where they are outside Abbott’s jurisdiction – for as long as it takes to block the election integrity bill, which they argued amounts to racist voter suppression. They also compared their plight to slavery.
“What do you do to a slave if you don’t do nothing but arrest them when they flee,” said Senfronia Thompson, a representative for Harris, on Friday. “We fled Texas and if they want to arrest me, go ahead. I’m ready to be arrested.”
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