Coronavirus: Vaccinated White House official, Pelosi aide test positive for COVID-19

WASHINGTON — An unidentified White House official and an aide for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have tested positive for COVID-19 as the delta variant continues to spread nationwide.

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that a White House official tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

“In accordance with our rigorous COVID-19 protocols, the official remains off-campus as they wait for confirmatory PCR test,” Psaki said at a news briefing, adding that the official had no contact with President Joe Biden or other officials. She said the official had been fully vaccinated and described their symptoms as mild.

>> Related: Coronavirus: ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says

“We know that there will be breakthrough cases but as this instance shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild,” she said. “This is another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalizations, and of course we wish our colleague a speedy recovery.”

Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, confirmed Tuesday that a fully vaccinated senior spokesperson in the house speaker’s office also tested positive Monday for COVID-19, CNN reported. He added that Pelosi was not exposed to the virus.

Hammill said the infected person had made contact with members of the Texas state legislature who left the state last week in an effort to stymie Republican efforts to introduce new voting restrictions in Texas, according to Reuters and The Associated Press. At least six of the Democratic state lawmakers, all of whom were fully vaccinated, have since tested positive for COVID-19, the CNN reported.

>> Related: Coronavirus: Delta variant accounts for 83% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in US, CDC director says

The cases were reported as public health officials continue to urge more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The news today is that while breakthrough cases will happen, the vaccines are effective and prevent against serious illness and death,” Psaki said Tuesday. “We’ve seen that statistically across the country, with 99.5% of cases in hospitals being for individuals who are not vaccinated, and we will continue to abide by CDC guidelines.”

During a Senate hearing Tuesday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that over the last week, the number of COVID-19 deaths reported nationwide has increased by nearly 48%, driven by the highly transmissible delta variant and unvaccinated Americans.

“Each death is tragic, and even more heartbreaking when we know that the majority of these deaths can be prevented with a simple, safe, available vaccine.”

>> Related: How do you know if you have the delta variant; what are the symptoms?

Across the U.S., about 56% of the population, or 186.3 million people, had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday morning, according to the latest numbers available from the CDC. Officials said 161.4 million people have so far been fully vaccinated, amounting to about 49% of the population.

More than 34.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. since the pandemic began, resulting in over 609,000 deaths, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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