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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 21, 2021 - Health

India crosses 1 billion COVID vaccinations milestone

A health worker inoculates a COVID-19 vaccine dose to a man wearing a face mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Beawar, India, in September. Photo: Sumit Saraswat/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Thursday that the country's health workers have now administered more than 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines doses.

Of note: While this is a significant milestone for the country of 1.4 billion, which has been devastated by the coronavirus, only about 30% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated against the virus, per AP. Roughly 75% have received at least one dose.

Hawaii invites fully vaccinated travelers to return from Nov. 1

Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Photo: Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) announced plans Wednesday to soon welcome back nonresidents to the island state who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for nonessential travel.

Why it matters: Hawaii's tourist-dependent labor market suffered one of the worst blows in the U.S. last year and the state's climb out of its pandemic-sized hole is moving slowly, Axios' Courtenay Brown notes.

DeSantis to convene state legislature to fight COVID vaccine mandates

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he will convene a special session of the state legislature to combat coronavirus vaccine mandates enacted by businesses and "provide protections for employees."

Why it matters: This is the Republican governor's latest move to penalize local entities that implement mask or vaccine mandates to contain the spread of the virus.