A White House staffer and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — both of them fully vaccinated — have tested positive for COVID-19 after meeting last week with a delegation of Texas Democrats who fled their state to stall voting legislation.
The state legislators traveled to DC unmasked aboard a chartered jet to stall a Republican state election reform bill.
The new infections follow reports that six members of the Texas delegation tested positive after meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris and others in DC.
The apparent transmission chain brings COVID-19 closer to President Biden, 78, and Pelosi, 81, whose advanced ages make them more at risk for serious illness.
Both Biden and Pelosi (D-Calif.) are vaccinated, lowering their risk of contracting the virus or having to be hospitalized if they do.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing Tuesday that the White House aide had “mild symptoms.” She said “there have been” additional “breakthrough” infections of vaccinated staffers this year but did not elaborate on how many.
A White House official told reporters, “Yesterday, a fully vaccinated White House official tested positive for COVID-19 off campus. In accordance with our rigorous COVID-19 protocols, the official remains off campus as they wait for a confirmatory PCR test. The White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and determined no close contacts among White House principals and staff.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said, “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. This individual has had no contact with the Speaker since exposure.”
Hammill added, “The entire Press Office is working remotely today with the exception of individuals who have had no exposure to the individual or have had a recent negative test.”
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) is threatening to jail the Democrats for impeding legislative business with their quorum-busting trip to DC.
Harris last week lauded the “courageous” legislators for their “great sacrifice” and likened them to abolitionist Frederick Douglass and women’s suffrage activists.
The Texas state Senate passed the election reform bill on Tuesday, but the legislature’s lower chamber does not have enough members willing to be present to allow for a quorum.
Republicans say that Democrats are misrepresenting the bill as a threat to voting rights.
The bill in Texas would prevent local officials from sending unsolicited absentee ballot applications and would require applicants to write their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security number on those applications. It would ban voting stations from remaining open for 24 hours and would ban drive-through voting. It would also state that partisan poll watchers are allowed to stand near election workers at polls.