Pelosi staffer, White House official test positive for COVID

Billy House and Jordan Fabian

A senior spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a White House official have tested positive for COVID-19. Both had been fully vaccinated and are among several staffers in Congress and at the White House who’ve been recently infected.

The Pelosi staff member had no contact with the speaker since being exposed, Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said in a statement. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that contract tracing had determined that the infected staff there had no close contact with senior people or President Joe Biden.

The Pelosi staffer tested positive after meeting last week with Democratic members of the Texas legislature who later learned they had the virus. Axios, which first reported the positive tests, said the White House official had been at a reception that the Pelosi staff member also attended.

Six of the Texas Democrats who fled Austin last week to stop a vote on legislation setting up more stringent voting requirements have tested positive for the virus. They met with several lawmakers and Vice President Kamala Harris, who the White House said Monday tested negative for the virus since the meeting.

The news of the positive staffer tests comes one day after Florida Republican Representative Vern Buchanan announced he contracted the virus. Buchanan is also fully vaccinated.

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, wrote in a memo Tuesday that “several” vaccinated staffers and one lawmaker have tested positive for COVID-19. Monahan said he would not impose a mask mandate, but said individuals have the “personal discretion” to wear one and “additional protective actions’ could be considered in the future.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday that the positive tests raise questions about whether the House should return to pandemic precautions, such as staggered voting, hearings conducted at least in part virtually and mandated mask wearing in the Capitol.

The Maryland Democrat said officials would have to decide “whether prudence demands going back to wearing a mask.” The Capitol’s attending physician is looking at the issue but has not yet suggested doing so, Hoyer said.

At the White House, Psaki said the Biden administration isn’t changing its recommendations to the public on masking. Yet she acknowledged there have been other breakthrough Covid cases among vaccinated White House staff members. Psaki declined to say how many or what level of staff were effected.

“We certainly understand there will be breakthrough cases,” she said. “Even vaccines that are incredibly effective are not foolproof.”