A Saturday dinner whose guests included infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, may have led to an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo are among the growing number of leaders in the federal government who attended the annual Gridiron Club dinner and have since been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, is also COVID-19 positive, her office announced Thursday. She did not attend Saturday’s dinner.
The number of high-level officials with the virus has some concerned. Pelosi, Garland and Raimondo are the second, seventh and 10th person in the presidential order of succession behind President Joe Biden.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ communication director Jamal Simmons, who attended the dinner, also has tested positive for the virus. Harris, so far, has tested negative for COVID-19, her office said.
Tom DeFrank, the president of the Gridiron Club, said he is aware that 14 guests at Saturday’s dinner have tested positive and that other cases could be expected.
“As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, we know of 14 guests at Saturday’s dinner who have tested positive for COVID. There is no way of being certain about when they first contracted COVID,” DeFrank said.
“But they did interact with other guests during the night and we have to be realistic and expect some more cases,” he continued. “Except in cases of public officials who have on their own disclosed their status, we will protect the privacy of guests who test positive.”
On Wednesday, Garland attended a press conference alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, to announce sanctions against a Russian oligarch.
In addition to Garland and Raimondo, other dinner attendees who have tested positive include Reps. Adam Schiff, D-California, Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and President Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens.
According to the Post, roughly 630 guests attended the dinner. They were required to show proof of vaccination to attend, DeFrank noted.
Other attendees included Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and New York mayor Eric Adams.
According to the Post, about a half-dozen journalists, as well as members of the White House and National Security Council staff, have said they tested positive after the event. Their names are being withheld because they have not announced their status publicly, the Post reported.
Some are expressing concern over President Joe Biden’s health after Pelosi appeared on stage with Biden at a White House event on Wednesday to sign postal service reform legislation.
Neither Pelosi nor Biden were wearing a mask, though both have been vaccinated and have received booster shots.
The day before, Pelosi was also at the White House when former President Barack Obama came to the East Room for an announcement about the Affordable Care Act. She was seen holding Obama’s hand after he made his remarks, hugging him and kissing his hand.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for the speaker, said in a statement, “After testing negative this week, Speaker Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic. The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided. The Speaker will quarantine consistent with CDC guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and test regularly.”
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