Covid News: Federal Court of Appeals reinstates Biden’s vaccination mandate for federal workers

Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Nancy Pelosi of California has tested positive for the coronavirus, her office said Thursday, the latest senior official to do so as the virus spreads in Washington.

Drew Hammill, spokesperson for Ms Pelosi, said she was asymptomatic and had already been vaccinated and backed up. He added that Ms Pelosi, 82, had tested negative earlier this week.

Ms Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency after Vice President Kamala Harris, was the highest in a series of positive coronavirus tests among top Washington officials, stressing that the pandemic is not complete, even as restrictions loosen.

Lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill were told March 30 that they were now allowed to receive a second booster dose if they met the criteria, after federal health officials cleared them for many people la Eve. Ms Pelosi received her second booster last month, according to her office, and it takes about a week for the immune system to build up. It is difficult to know exactly how a person was exposed and infected with the virus.

“The speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is grateful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Mr. Hammill said, adding that Ms. Pelosi would self-isolate in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The speaker “encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and tested regularly,” he said.

Ms Pelosi was among lawmakers who appeared without a mask with President Biden during a bill signing ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. On Thursday, White House officials said Mr Biden had tested negative on Wednesday evening, and despite interactions in recent days and Ms Pelosi’s presence at White House events, she was not considered a contact narrow of the president, defined by the CDC as someone within six feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period. Mr. Biden would continue to be tested regularly, White House officials said.

At a press conference on Thursday, Jen Psaki, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, said there were “incredibly strict protocols” at the White House that went beyond CDC guidelines.

“Each member of staff follows a regular testing protocol,” she said. “If you go see him in person, whether you travel with him or meet in the Oval Office, you will be tested.”

Ms Pelosi’s positive test came just before her weekly press conference, which was later cancelled. Mr Hammill noted a planned congressional delegation to Asia, which Ms. Pelosi was to lead, would be postponed.

Credit…Tom Brenner/Reuters

Positive tests have been reported among senior officials and journalists who have attended other recent parties and events, including the Gridiron Club Dinner, an annual black-tie roast between journalists and presidential administrations held during of the weekend.

Just hours after becoming one of three Republicans to back Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation, Senator Susan Collins of Maine tested positive for the virus. Ms. Collins’ office said the senator, who wore a mask in the Senate chamber during the vote on Thursday, had mild symptoms and would self-isolate.

Two Biden administration officials, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, said Wednesday they had tested positive for the virus. Mr. Biden, as well as Ms. Pelosi, did not attend the Gridiron, but appeared without a mask at several events this week.

Virus continued to tear Capitol Hill on Thursday: Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia and representatives Angie Craig of Minnesota and Peter A. DeFazio from Oregon, all Democrats, said on Twitter that they had tested positive. That followed two other House Democrats, Reps. Derek Kilmer of Washington and Gregory W. Meeks of New York, who said on Twitter on Wednesday that they had tested positive and were asymptomatic.

Michael LaRosa, the press secretary for Jill Biden, the first lady, also said Thursday that he had tested positive for the virus, but had been out of office earlier in the week and was not a close contact with the president or the first lady.

Earlier this week, Representatives Joaquin Castro of Texas and Adam B. Schiff of California, both Democrats, said they tested positive after attending the Gridiron. Other Democrats who did not attend the dinner announced positive tests, including Rep. Katherine M. Clark of Massachusetts, Deputy House Speaker and Rep. Scott Peters of California.

Ms. Pelosi’s infection has had ripple effects on official Washington business, even among people who have been exposed to it but have not tested positive. Xavier Becerra, the Health and Human Services Secretary, appeared at a press conference on Thursday wearing a mask for most of the event, saying he had rubbed shoulders with Ms Pelosi days earlier. The briefing, organized to mark world health dayincluded Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, who had visited Ms Pelosi this week and also wore a mask on Thursday.

On Wednesday, an average of 144 new virus cases per day were reported in Washington, DC, an increase of 135% over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database.

The report was provided by Katie Rogers, Adel Hassan, Alyssa Lukpat and Noah Weiland.

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