Ag Secretary Vilsack joins Speaker Pelosi, Sen. Collins in testing positive for COVID as outbreak spreads among DC officials

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WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined a growing list of Washington officials testing positive for COVID-19.

Vilsack announced Saturday on Twitter he tested positive for COVID-19. Vilsack is the latest of several vaccinated and boosted administration officials to test positive. He was scheduled to travel to Denver this week with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Vilsack's announcement came two days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, and President Joe Biden's sister tested positive for COVID-19 A day earlier, two cabinet officials and others tested positive the day before.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

Pelosi, who is asymptomatic, tested positive on Thursday. She will quarantine, her spokesman announced.

“The speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” said spokesman Drew Hammill.

Pelosi attended crowded events at the White House Tuesday and Wednesday at which Biden spoke.

The White House said Biden's interactions with Pelosi do not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's definition of being in close contact.

Late Thursday evening another White House official said they too had tested positive for COVID-19. Michael LaRosa, press secretary for first lady Jill Biden, tested positive for the virus, LaRosa confirmed to USA TODAY.

President Joe Biden kisses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., during an Affordable Care Act event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on April 5, 2022.
President Joe Biden kisses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., during an Affordable Care Act event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on April 5, 2022.

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Collins tests positive after Supreme Court vote; DeFazio experiencing 'mild cold-like symptoms and fatigue'

Collins, one of three Republicans who broke from her party to vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, tested positive late Thursday afternoon.

Her office said the senator is experiencing mild symptoms and will isolate and work remotely following the diagnosis.

Collins' positive test came just hours after she voted for Jackson's historic nomination. Last week, Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., warned reporters that the confirmation wasn't a done deal until after the vote, because something like a senator testing positive for COVID and being unable to vote could disrupt the process.

The senator attended the annual Gridiron Dinner on Saturday, as did Vilsack and two other cabinet members who have since tested positive. LaRossa also attended the dinner, which attracts a wide swath of government officials and journalists. Some lawmakers and reporters who were at the dinner have also tested positive.

History in the making: Ketanji Brown Jackson confirmed by Senate as first Black woman on Supreme Court

Meanwhile, DeFazio announced on Twitter late Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19, adding: "Thanks to being fully vaccinated, I am only experiencing mild cold-like symptoms and fatigue. I will follow CDC guidance and quarantine. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated!"

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia announced Thursday evening that he too has the virus, tweeting "Late this afternoon after a routine test, I tested positive for COVID-19. I’m so thankful to be both vaccinated & boosted, and at the advice of the Attending Physician I plan to isolate."

Biden tests negative

Biden was last tested Wednesday, as part of his regular testing regime of a couple times a week, and tested negative, according to the White House.

His doctor does not believe it's necessary for Biden to test daily, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. "COVID will continue to be with us," she said. "We will see cases rise and fall."

Pelosi was one of nine House members to test positive this week. Democratic Rep. Angie Craig of Minnesota tested positive later Thursday afternoon. All of the members are fully vaccinated and boosted.

Following Pelosi's diagnosis, a planned trip by lawmakers to Asia that the speaker was to lead has been postponed.

Biden's sister also tests COVID positive

Valerie Biden Owens tested positive on Wednesday after experiencing mild symptoms, her publisher said in a statement.

Owens had not been in close contact with the president or first lady, the publisher said.

Owens' memoir, "Growing up Biden," comes out Tuesday.

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`Growing up Biden': Valerie Biden Owens, Joe's sister who ran his campaigns, writing memoir

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said they had tested positive, as did Vice President Kamala Harris' communications director Jamal Simmons.

All three had attended the annual Gridiron Dinner Saturday night.

Pelosi was not at the dinner but her spokesman, Hammill, was.

Biden did not attend the dinner but spoke Wednesday at an event in a hotel ballroom packed with more than 2,000 union leaders and members, most of whom were not wearing masks.

He also held a crowded health care event at the White House on Tuesday and hosted lawmakers and others for a bill signing Wednesday.

Biden, 79, has been vaccinated, and he received his first booster shot in September and a second at the end of March.

In addition, the White House had gone beyond CDC's recommended protocols to protect Biden from the virus. Anyone who meets with the president or is traveling with him is tested first. When possible, Biden is also kept socially distanced from others, according to Psaki.

"We are living with COVID-19," Psaki said Wednesday. "We are continuing to fight it."

More: AG Garland, Commerce Sec Gina Raimondo latest attendees of Washington dinner to test positive for COVID

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Susan Collins test positive for COVID