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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A White House official and a staff member for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have both tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the same reception last week, officials confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: While both individuals are vaccinated and mildly symptomatic, they illustrate how Americans inoculated against the coronavirus can still contract and, potentially, unknowingly transmit the virus — even at the highest levels of the nation's government.

  • "We know that there will be breakthrough cases, but as this instance shows, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild," a White House official told Axios.

Driving the news: The Pelosi staffer helped usher a delegation of Democratic Texas lawmakers around the Capitol last week. Six of those lawmakers, who flew to Washington to block the Texas legislature from changing the state's voting laws, have since tested positive.

  • Both that staffer and the White House official were at the same rooftop reception at the Eaton DC hotel last Wednesday night.
  • The White House official has not had any recent direct contact with President Biden. The Pelosi aide did not have any contact with the speaker since that person's exposure.

What they're saying: "Yesterday, a fully vaccinated White House official tested positive for COVID-19 off campus," a White House official told Axios in a statement.

  • "In accordance with our rigorous COVID-19 protocols, the official remains off campus as they wait for a confirmatory PCR test. The White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and determined no close contacts among White House principals and staff. The individual has mild symptoms."
  • The official added: "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 hospitalization. We wish our colleague a speedy recovery."
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki later confirmed during a press briefing that the official tested positive on Tuesday. She added that the person will remain off campus as they wait for a confirmatory PCR test.
  • She also said that there have been multiple breakthrough cases among White House staffers, but did not elaborate.

Drew Hammill, deputy chief of staff to Pelosi, told Axios in a statement: "Yesterday, a fully vaccinated senior spokesperson in the Speaker’s press office tested positive for COVID after contact with members of the Texas state legislature last week."

  • "The entire press office is working remotely today with the exception of individuals who have had no exposure to the individual or have had a recent negative test. Our office will continue to follow the guidance of the Office of Attending Physician closely."

Rep. Vern Buchanan, (R-Fla.) on Monday announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated, becoming the first known positive case in Congress this summer.

  • Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, said in a congressional coronavirus update emailed to lawmakers on Tuesday that several "Congressional staff members and 1 Member of Congress have acquired infection" after being vaccinated.
  • He urged those who are unvaccinated to "come for vaccination at any time."

The big picture: COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the country, with health officials becoming increasingly worried about the Delta variant. It's significantly more infectious than the original strain, and it poses an acute threat to the unvaccinated.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2021 - Health

COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought

Tyson Foods in Portland, Maine, in 2020. Photo: Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Cases and deaths from COVID-19 among workers at the five largest U.S. meatpacking companies were nearly three times higher than previously thought, according to a memo from the House panel probing the response to the pandemic.

Driving the news: At least 59,000 workers contracted COVID-19 and 269 workers died at Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill, National Beef and Smithfield Foods — which together make up more than 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the U.S. — according to counts through January of this year.

Updated Oct 28, 2021 - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters' union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under De Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

Oct 28, 2021 - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive care unit in Rio de Janeiro in May. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.