Two Biden cabinet members among string of positive Covid-19 cases after elite Gridiron dinner

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced their positive diagnoses after attending the Gridiron Club’s elite dinner in Washington on Saturday. Other attendees, including Vice President Kamala Harris‘ Communications Director Jamal Simmons and Democratic Representatives Joaquin Castro and Adam Schiff and President Joe Biden’s sister Valerie Biden Owens, also announced positive tests.

The string of positive cases has drawn attention in Washington to the Gridiron Dinner, an event that brings together some of the city’s most prominent reporters, including from CNN, and the government officials they cover. Attendees had their vaccination status checked, but negative Covid-19 tests were not required to enter.

Tom DeFrank, the president of the Gridiron Club, said 14 dinner guests on Saturday tested positive and more cases could be expected.

“As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, we know of 14 dinner guests on Saturday who have tested positive for Covid. There is no way to be certain when they first contracted Covid,” said FromFrank.

“But they interacted with other guests overnight and we have to be realistic and expect more cases,” he continued. “Except in the case of public officials who have voluntarily disclosed their status, we will protect the privacy of guests who test positive.”

Garland has no symptoms but asked to be tested after learning he may have been exposed to the virus, the Justice Department said. Earlier Wednesday, Garland attended a press conference with other officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, to announce sanctions against Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev.
Raimondo, meanwhile, “is experiencing mild symptoms” but is “confident that the vaccine prevented her from experiencing more significant symptoms,” according to a Commerce Department statement Wednesday. Schiff said on a Tuesday Tweeter that he “felt good”, and Castro reported in its own to “have mild symptoms”. Owens did not have close contact with President Biden or First Lady Jill Biden prior to his test, according to a statement from Celadon Books.

Vice President close contact

Harris had been in close contact with Simmons, who tested positive on Wednesday, publicist Kirsten Allen said.

“The vice president will follow CDC advice for those who have had close contact with someone who is HIV-positive and will continue to see their doctor. The vice president plans to continue her public agenda,” Allen said in a written statement.

In addition to attending the weekend dinner, Simmons was also photographed in the East Room of the White House at the Affordable Care Act event with President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.

Biden is not considered close contact with Simmons, a White House official told CNN.

Inside the White House, in accordance with federal public health guidelines, officials and visitors were not required to wear masks or socially distance. Visitors must be tested for Covid-19 before attending official White House events.

Simmons’ case is not the first to touch the White House.

Last month, second gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for the virus, marking the first known case of Covid-19 among first or second families since Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office in January 2021. And White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have also tested positive in recent weeks.

Covid-19 cases in Washington, DC, have been declining since their peak in early January, when the country was dealing with a surge of Omicron variant cases. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Wednesday he believed there would be an increase in Covid-19 cases in the United States over the coming weeks, and that it is likely that there could be an increase in the fall. .

“I think we should expect…that over the next couple of weeks we’ll see an increase in the number of cases. And hopefully there’s enough background immunity that we don’t end up with a lot of hospitalizations,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when asked by Bloomberg TV’s David Westin about the prospect of another wave of Covid-19 from BA.2 or of another variant, given the level of immunity assumed to exist in the United States today.

This story was updated with additional details on Wednesday.

CNN’s Karl de Vries, MJ Lee and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.

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