An invisible party crusher has made Washington uncomfortable

Washington – “What are you hearing about Gridiron?”

A version of that text message spread across the phone in Washington this week as the Gridiron Club dinner, an annual black-tie roast between journalists and the presidential administration over the weekend, quickly turned from a watery cross-pollination party to an event where coronavirus caught a lot of boldface names. It seems to have fallen.

On Wednesday, two officials from the Biden administration who attended the dinner, Commerce Secretary Gina Raymondo and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, said they had tested positive for the virus. No one was scheduled for close contact with President Biden, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone less than six feet away for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The positive tests are a reminder that, even as authorities try to persuade Americans to move away from strict restrictions and learn to live with the coronavirus, the epidemic is not over, driven by the emergence of a new, highly contagious subvariant whose spread is worrying. Experts

Mr Biden did not appear at the Gridiron, but he did appear unmasked at several events this week, even within his administration, among lawmakers, in the news media and across the capital. His maskless appearance calls into question the 79-year-old president and even the security protocols that stand in the way of a tactical virus that specializes in avoiding strict security measures.

White House Press Secretary Jane Sackie told reporters Wednesday that the White House has been following the CDC guidelines and the mask guidelines issued by the District of Columbia.

“I would say that we take additional measures that go beyond the CDC protocol and requirements to ensure that we do what we can to keep principals safe,” said Mrs. Saki, adding that “the president, vice president and others, of course, are in the building.” “

According to several officials familiar with the protocol, officials who regularly have close contact with Mr. Biden are often examined. Mr. Biden holds socially distant meetings with colleagues whenever possible and examines those who meet with him at the White House. However, this does not apply to what Mrs. Saki said is a “public” event, where Mr. Biden can mingle with those invited to the group settings.

One of these happened on Tuesday, when Mr Biden welcomed former President Barack Obama into a crowded East Room, where two men spoke about the longevity of the Affordable Care Act and promoted it among supporters. Mrs Saki said participants were not tested for coronavirus.

The Biden administration says it has strict communication-tracing protocols in place, but the timing of when officials tested it after coming in contact with the virus was unclear in several cases.

Just hours after the announcement about Mr. Garland’s arrival, he gave a news briefing at 10 a.m. in the Justice Department, where he met with FBI Director Christopher A. Several other officers, including Way, were on hand.

On Wednesday, the judiciary said in a statement that it had asked for an investigation after learning that it had been exposed to the virus. Mrs Raymondo said she used antigen tests at home. Both are vaccinated and boosted.

A White House statement said Jamal Simmons, communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. He was isolated and would work from home, but Mr. Simmons was in close contact with Miss Harris. He will consult his physician and plan to continue his universal schedule.

Mrs Saki has been infected with the virus twice and returned to the stage after her second fight last week. Her deputy, Karin Jean-Pierre, is infected with the virus. Other administration officials have been infected with the virus and have not announced it.

This week, Texas representatives Joaquin Castro and California’s Adam B. Schiff, both Democrats, said they tested positive after joining Gridiron. Other Democrats who did not attend the dinner announced positive tests, including Massachusetts Representative Katherine M. Clarke, Assistant House Speaker and California Representative Scott Peters.

In addition to Gridiron, journalists and administrative officials who attended several other parties and events reported that they had been infected with the virus. A departure party of Emily Horn, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, returned a number of positive events among those in attendance, including journalists, last week.

The spread has also affected the book party circuit: a celebration for the president’s sister Valerie Biden Owens was postponed on Wednesday.

But the White House correspondents’ dinner is the next big party on the horizon, and it’s still going on, according to an email from Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Press Association. The same day coronavirus test results will be required for dinner according to a plan email. The White House did not say whether Biden would attend.

The president was last tested for the virus on Monday and tested negative, a White House official who is not authorized to speak publicly said Wednesday he should be tested again this week.

Isabella Grulon Paz, Zach Montagu and Lauren McCarthy contributed to the report.

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