The Delta variant is in the House, and also the White House, jolting political Washington

·2 min read
Rep. Steve Scalise
Rep. Steve Scalise Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19, despite being fully vaccinated, and is experiencing "very mild flu-like symptoms." His diagnosis ends nearly six months of no new infections among members of Congress. On Tuesday, a senior communications aide for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), also fully vaccinated, tested positive — one of "several" staff members infected with COVID-19, according to Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol's attending physician. He said the Delta variant has been detected in the Capitol.

The Pelosi staffer had been working with a delegation of about 60 Texas Democrats in Washington to thwart passage of a restrictive voting bill. Six of the Texas lawmakers have tested positive, with no or mild symptoms. The Texas delegation said it is fully vaccinated.

The White House also said Tuesday that a fully vaccinated staffer had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and is awaiting additional tests off-site. "We know there will be breakthrough cases, but as this incident shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, adding that the staffer had no close contact with President Biden or other White House principals or staff.

"Future developments in the coronavirus Delta variant local threat may require the resumption of mask wear for all as now seen in several counties in the United States," Monahan wrote in new guidance. He had eased the mask mandate in mid-June.

"As COVID infections have crept back onto the Hill, they've shattered the sense of calm that had just begun to settle across the complex after the deadly pandemic and insurrection," Politico reports. "For many Democrats in the House, there's a sense of acute frustration at GOP lawmakers who have refused vaccines but also go mask-less in public areas. At least one Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, has received his first dose of the vaccine in the last several days, citing the Delta variant. But dozens of House Republicans have told reporters they have refused to get vaccinated."

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) postponed an August trip to Israel. "We were going to Israel, leading all the freshmen and it just got canceled because of the Delta variant," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Tuesday, adding that his big question now is "does this Delta pose a risk to even those who got vaccinated?"

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