At least 72 people, including members of President Joe Biden’s cabinet, senators and top federal staffers, have tested positive for covid following last weekend’s white-tie Gridiron dinner.
Biden wore a face mask as he arrived back at the White House on Monday after spending the weekend in Wilmington, Del.. He removed it as he walked from Marine One to the Oval Office.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams was one of the latest dinner attendee to announce he tested positive, which came on his 100th day in office.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who also attended the dinner, announced Monday she was positive with mild symptoms.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who also attended the dinner, has tested positive for covid. Luria, who is vaccinated and boosted, is experiencing mild symptoms.
Gridiron Gridiron Club President Tom DeFrank said Sunday that the group had reported 72 cases out of the hundreds of people who attended.
The dinner, one of Washington’s most exclusive events, was held in person on April 2 after a two-year hiatus. It attracted 630 guests this year. There was a vaccine requirement to attend.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the government, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that he believes people should determine their own levels of risk and that those ‘who run big dinners, who run functions like the White House correspondents’ ball or, thinking back, the Gridiron Dinner, are going to have to make a determination looking at the CDC guidelines and seeing where the trends are.’
President Joe Biden wore a face mask when he arrived back at the White House on Monday after spending the weekend in Wilmington, Del.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attended the Gridiron and is one of the at least 72 people who have tested positive for covid after attending
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who also attended the dinner, has tested positive for covid. Luria, who is vaccinated and boosted, is experiencing mild symptoms
Three members of Biden’s cabinet tested positive after attending the Gridiron dinner.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has been fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive Friday. Fellow Cabinet secretaries Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, tested positive last week after they attended the annual event.
Several lawmakers who attended the private, invitation-only dinner, also tested positive, including Democratic Reps. Joaquin Castro and Adam Schiff, and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who announced her positive test after she voted on the Senate floor to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.
Closer to President Biden, several senior staff and his sister tested positive for covid: Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications director Jamal Simmons; first lady Jill Biden’s press secretary, Michael LaRosa; and Valerie Biden Owens all attended the dinner.
The White House, meanwhile, acknowledged on Friday that Biden could get covid.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told CNN that it’s certainly possible Biden, 79, will get covid at some point, but noted that he’s vaccinated and double boosted so a severe case is unlikely.
The admission comes as more people with access to the president – including cabinet officials, lawmakers and his sister – have tested positive for the virus.
‘We take precautions to ensure that the president is protected. But I do think it’s important to note that, you know, it is possible he will test positive for covid at some point,’ Bedingfield said Friday morning. ‘The president is vaccinated and double-boosted and so, protected from severe covid.’
‘The president is certainly living his life. Just as, as you say, all Americans across the country are while taking precautions,’ she noted.
So far the president has avoided infection.
‘The protocols to protect the president are pretty strong. The president is vaccinated. He is doubly boosted. He got his fourth shot,’ Fauci told ABC News on Sunday. ‘And most of the time, people who get anywhere near him need to be tested. So we feel the protocol is a reasonable protocol.’
The White House lifted its face mask policy after the case rate went down for the Washington D.C. area.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who did not attend the dinner, tested positive for covid on Thursday. She attended events at the White House on Tuesday and Wednesday with Biden.
Biden was not deemed a close contact to Pelosi because, the White House said, he did not meet the CDC guidelines of being within six feet of her for more than 15 minutes.
‘It did not meet that bar,’ White House press secreary Jen Psaki said of Biden and Pelosi’s time together.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is one of the three cabinet secretaries who attended the Gridiron and later tested positive for covid
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who also attended the dinner, announced Monday she was positive with mild symptoms
The tightening circle of positive cases around the president led to the repeated questions to Psaki about his safety and health.
Pskai said there were no plans to change covid protocols or reinstate a face mask policy for the White House.
‘We expected there to be ups and downs and increases,’ she said of the case rate.
She said there were no plans to test the president daily. Biden tested negative for covid on Wednesday evening and is tested regularly.
‘That would be a decision made by his doctor, but that is not deemed to be necessary at this point,’ Psaki said.
The past week has seen an uptick in positive tests – particularly among people who have access to Biden, leading to the questions about the policies in place to keep the 79-year-old from getting infected.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted President Joe Biden was not a close contact with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has tested positive for covid, despite the hugs and kiss on the cheek they shared – above Biden and Pelosi at a Tuesday event at the White House
Psaki said there were strict policies in place at the White House to protect the president and other principals.
‘We have incredibly stringent protocols here at the White House that we keep in place to keep the president safe. to keep everybody safe. Those go over and above CDC guidelines,’ she said.
She noted that senior staff are tested regularly and that anyone meeting with the president is tested.
‘If you’re going to see him in person, whether you’re traveling with him or you’re meeting in the Oval Office, you will be tested,’ she noted.
Biden did not attend the Gridiron dinner. Psaki said no decision has been made yet as to whether he will attend the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, which is at the end of April.
The Gridiron Club dinner is an off-camera, off-the-record event for members of the media. Politicians and other a-list figures are invited to its annual dinner.
The event features a Republican speaker, a Democratic speaker, and a speaker representing the sitting administration, along with a series of sketches performed by club members.