White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that there have been prior breakthrough cases among White House staffers in addition to the fully vaccinated official who CNN reported on Tuesday tested positive for Covid-19.
“There have been. I will say that we, according to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers,” Psaki said when asked if there had been other breakthrough cases among White House staff.
A White House “commissioned officer” is any official who has a version of “assistant to the President” in their title. According to a July report to Congress on White House personnel, there are over 130 staffers at that level.
CNN reported earlier Tuesday that a White House official and a senior aide in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, who are both fully vaccinated, have tested positive for Covid-19. Axios was first to report the breakthrough cases.
Psaki later clarified the White House official who tested positive was not a commissioned officer, but declined to say what office the official worked in, citing privacy concerns. None of the other positive cases were commissioned officers, either, she said, explaining that the White House would have proactively released that information.
Psaki declined to say how many breakthrough cases had been recorded, or what level of staff was affected.
She also confirmed the case reported earlier Tuesday on the record.
“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 confirmatory PCR test,” Psaki said.
She said that the White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and “determined no close contacts, among White House principals or staff or the President.”
Psaki said that the official has “mild symptoms.”
“We know that there will be breakthrough cases. But as this incident shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild. The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing. This is another reminder of the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalizations,” she said.
She added, “Our protocols are in alignment with the highest standards of the guidance of our public health experts,” noting that those surrounding and meeting with the President are subject to “regular testing” and are following US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on mask wearing and distancing.
Staff has also been asked to self-monitor and stay off the White House campus if they develop symptoms.
Psaki also declined to characterize a trip by the Texas House Democrats to Washington as a “super spreader event” now that multiple officials in contact with the group have tested positive for breakthrough infections.