White House official, Pelosi aide test positive for COVID-19 after attending event together – USA TODAY

  • Pelosi’s office said the speaker’s aide tested positive after meeting with a group of Texas Democrats.
  • Both individuals were vaccinated. A small percentage of inoculated people can still get COVID-19.

WASHINGTON — A White House official and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending an event together, a White House official confirmed. 

Both individuals were fully vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective but a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated can still get COVID-19 if exposed to the virus that causes it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Yesterday, a fully vaccinated White House official tested positive for COVID-19 off-campus,” the White House official said in a statement. The staffer is self-isolating according to “rigorous COVID-19 protocols,” the official added.

“The White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and determined no close contacts among White House principals and staff. The individual has mild symptoms,” the official said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the official’s positive test  during a press briefing on Tuesday. She said there have been other previously undisclosed breakthrough cases of COVID-19 among White House staff but declined to say how many.  

Neither the individual who tested positive nor any of the other previously undisclosed breakthrough cases were in high-level positions, Psaki said.

“This individual was out of the office when they were tested yesterday, and they’ve stayed out of the office,” Psaki said.

Vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections are much less likely to get severely sick or die.

The White House did not disclose the event at which the staffer may have been exposed to COVID.

But Pelosi’s office confirmed that a senior aide to the speaker tested positive for COVID-19 after meeting with a group of Texas Democrats who came to Washington last week.

On Saturday, five Texas Democrats who had met with Vice President Kamala Harris tested positive for COVID-19. The group had fled the state by bus to block GOP voting restrictions under consideration in the state legislature.

“Yesterday, a fully-vaccinated senior spokesperson in the speaker’s press office tested positive for COVID after contact with members of the Texas state legislature last week,” Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, said in a statement.

The vice president’s office said she has since tested negative for COVID-19 and is being monitored.

“We take these precautions incredibly seriously and abide by the health — the guidance of our health and medical experts,” Psaki said on Monday when asked if the administration is taking any new precautions to protect President Joe Biden’s health after Harris’ meeting with Texas Democrats.

The news site Axios first reported the story. 

The Biden administration has not disclosed how many White House staffers are vaccinated. 

“We know that there will be breakthrough cases, but as this instance shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild,” the White House official said. “The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing. This is another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalization. We wish our colleague a speedy recovery.”

The news comes as cases of the coronavirus rise across the country, with the more contagious Delta variant now accounting for a majority of new virus cases. 

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.