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July 21, 2021 Olympics and Covid-19 pandemic news

The White House will disclose positive Covid-19 cases from any White House official who is deemed to have been in close contact with a principal by the White House medical unit, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday, in a slight revisions to the policy she outlined previously

“What we’re going to be providing moving forward, are updates on any White House official who test positive for Covid-19 that the White House medical unit deemed as having close contact with the President, vice president, first lady, or second gentlemen. That will be up to the White House medical unit based on the criteria of the CDC,” Psaki said aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Psaki said the White House would release information for any positive case only if it was that of a “commissioned officer.”

“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 during Tuesday’s White House press briefing 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.

Psaki said there are approximately 2,000 people who work on White House campus each day, though of course not all of those individuals would come in close contact with a principal.

The press secretary said statistically, breakthrough cases will occur at the White House, just as they have across the country, but that the White House is prepared for that. In addition, Psaki said the breakthrough cases are proof the vaccines work as those cases are typically mild or asymptomatic and generally do not lead to severe illness or hospitalization. 

Psaki said an email from the White House’s Covid-19 operations protocol team was sent to White House staff today informing them of the new policy and added that at no point has the President been forced to self-quarantine or change his habits due to a close contact with an individual who has tested positive for Covid-19.

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.

On masking, Psaki said the White House remains committed to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“We abide by public health guidance by the CDC. The CDC guidelines currently are if you are vaccinated you do not need to wear a mask. If you are not vaccinated, you should wear a mask. That’s the guidelines we continue to give to members of the White House staff,” Psaki said. 

  

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