WASHINGTON — At least nine House Democrats have announced in the past five days that they have tested positive for the coronavirus, with more than half of those cases emerging after lawmakers attended a party retreat last week last in Philadelphia.
It is unclear what drove the surge of cases or where the representatives had been infected. But House members spent hours on the floor without masks for votes that stretched late into the night last Wednesday before Democrats boarded buses for their rally.
The infections have been a shocking reminder that even as top officials seek to back away from tough restrictions and encourage Americans to learn to live with the coronavirus, the pandemic is raging. The White House announced Tuesday that Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, has tested positive for the virus.
The uptick has been all the more striking as Democrats, including members of Congress and President Biden’s team, have generally been far more supportive of strict virus precautions, while Republicans have been vocal opponents. to mask mandates and other measures, arguing that they are excessive and an attack on individual liberty.
Yet even as reports of infections circulated in Washington and cases continued to climb around the world, there was no indication that White House or congressional officials would reimpose a series of precautions they have just begun to take. to cancel. This reflects decisions being made across the country, where leaders are abandoning pandemic-era restrictions and mandates.
The White House announced on Tuesday that public tours would resume in April, after being suspended at the start of the pandemic. At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, senior lawmakers and Capitol Hill officials are discussing plans to reopen the building to tourists, according to aides briefed on the discussions, after House Democrats decided this month to lift a mask mandate in their room.
Fully vaccinated lawmakers will not be required to wear masks on Wednesday, as members of the House and Senate meet in joint session for a virtual address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Unvaccinated lawmakers will be required to wear a mask, although it’s unclear how strictly this will be enforced.)
Representatives Jared Golden of Maine, Joe Neguse of Colorado and Andy Kim of New Jersey announced Tuesday morning about an hour apart that they had tested positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Neguse attended the retreat with four other people who said they had tested positive in recent days: representatives Madeleine Doyen from Pennsylvania, Zoe Lofgren from California, Kim Schrier from washington and Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut.
Two other House Democrats, Reps. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and Peter Welch from Vermont, also said they tested positive on Friday and Monday, respectively. They were not present at the retreat, according to a person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss attending the private meeting.
Representatives, their staff members and their families were required to take rapid PCR or antigen tests before the event, and attendees were required to take rapid tests in their hotel rooms on Thursday and Friday.
Mr. Biden spoke in person at the retreat on Friday. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that because all retired representatives were vaccinated, a change in the president’s behavior would not be warranted under CDC guidelines. She repeated that Mr. Biden had received a negative test result on Sunday.
Many House members were also gathered on the floor late Wednesday night to pass a major spending bill before they left for Philadelphia, though it’s unclear which members were physically present as remote voting was permitted. . Most of the Democrats who tested positive pointed out that they had been vaccinated and said it was a reminder that the pandemic was not over yet.
“I caught COVID on the 2nd anniversary of the pandemic,” Mr Kim said wrote on Twitter. “Yes, I feel miserable. I woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, but I’m not scared like I would have been a year or two ago. That doesn’t mean I am not worried.
The outbreak among House Democrats comes amid growing concerns about a rise in coronavirus cases in parts of Europe and Asia, as well as warnings from public health experts that states United could see a summer or fall increase.
The Democrats were joined on Tuesday by fellow Republican Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, who said on Twitter that he was experiencing mild symptoms after a “routine test” came back positive.
Annie Karni contributed report.