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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, becoming the latest high-profile Washington official to come down with the virus in recent weeks amid a wave of new infections.
A spokesperson for the California Democrat confirmed that she tested positive just as she was set to hold her weekly press conference with reporters. She’s the eighth member of Congress to test positive this week.
“After testing negative this week, Speaker Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic,” Drew Hammill, her deputy chief of staff, tweeted. “The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided.”
Pelosi’s positive test result came one day after Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo both announced on Wednesday that they too had tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas and Adam Schiff of California revealed their positive test results on Tuesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris’s communications director, Jamal Simmons, and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser also tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
The slew of positive test results comes amid an outbreak among Washington leaders who attended a Gridiron Club dinner on Saturday night. Among the guests were Cabinet members as well as journalists and members of Congress.
Garland, Raimondo, Castro, Schiff and Simmons attended the swanky black-tie event, where guests were asked to show proof of vaccination but weren’t required to be tested for COVID-19 in order to attend, and many of the guests were unmasked. Pelosi wasn’t in attendance, but Hammill, her staffer, was.
President Biden — who is regularly tested for COVID and who has so far been able to skirt around contracting it — didn’t attend the Gridiron dinner, but he did speak at a crowded union event with more than 2,000 people in attendance. Just last week, the 79-year-old president received his second booster shot.
On Thursday, the White House said Biden had tested negative for COVID on Wednesday night and “is not considered a close contact of Speaker Pelosi as defined by the CDC.”
Biden’s sister revealed on Wednesday that she also had the virus, but she hadn’t been in close contact with her brother or first lady Jill Biden.
At least 14 guests who attended the Gridiron dinner tested positive, according to club president Tom DeFrank. He said many of the cases involved people who were sitting at three tables. On Wednesday, 717 people in the nation’s capital tested positive for COVID-19, the New York Times reported, the highest single-day number in weeks.
According to the Times, several people in D.C. — ranging from journalists to administration officials — also contracted the virus after a going-away party for National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne.
It’s unclear how widely the positive COVID cases will spread across Washington as coronavirus restrictions continue to be lifted and more indoor events and gatherings are being held across the capital. Just this week, the U.S. Capitol reopened to some public tours after having been closed for two years due to the pandemic.
Garland, who said he is asymptomatic, appeared at a press conference alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray and others just before he tested positive on Wednesday.
In the days before receiving her positive test result, Pelosi appeared unmasked at crowded White House events where Biden was in attendance. On Tuesday, the speaker was seen hugging former President Barack Obama — who had the virus in March — as he visited his old stomping grounds for the first time in five years.
On March 22, the day before Biden left Washington for a trip to Europe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tested positive for COVID for a second time.
When asked on Wednesday at a White House press briefing about the fact that the president was maskless at recent events, Psaki said: “We are living with COVID-19. We are continuing to fight it.”
Cover thumbnail photo via Associated Press/Mariam Zuhaib