The news came as the Biden administration prepares to hold a massive celebration on the South Lawn Friday to mark Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, an event they are defending as being outdoors and at a time when many people are vaccinated.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told CNN that it’s certainly possible Biden, 79, will get covid at some point, but noted that he’s vaccinated and double boosted so a severe case is unlikely.
The admission comes as more people with access to the president – including cabinet officials, lawmakers and his sister – have tested positive for the virus.
‘We take precautions to ensure that the president is protected. But I do think it’s important to note that, you know, it is possible he will test positive for covid at some point,’ Bedingfield said Friday morning. ‘The president is vaccinated and double-boosted and so, protected from severe covid.’
‘The president is certainly living his life. Just as, as you say, all Americans across the country are while taking precautions,’ she noted.
Meanwhile, Jill Biden’s press secretary Michael LaRosa tested positive for covid on Thursday. He attended Saturday’s white-tie Gridiron dinner, which has become a super spreader event with many in attendance later testing positive for covid.
LaRosa had been out of the office and then tested when he was deemed a close contact to someone. His PRC test came back positive. Because he was not in the East Wing this week he was not deemed a close contact to the first lady.
The diagnosis is the latest in a series of cases that have struck the Biden administration, lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the D.C. press corps.
The White House conceded that President Joe Biden could get covid; ‘It is possible he will test positive for covid at some point,’ communications director Kate Bedingfield told CNN
Jill Biden press secretary Michael LaRosa tested positive for covid – becoming the latest case in the administration
Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive on Thursday as did two senators who were on the Senate floor to vote to confirm Jackson to the high court – Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
Despite the rising case rate, the White House is planning a large celebration of Jackson’s confirmation with hundreds of guests invited to the outdoor event.
The list of invited includes ‘Judge Jackson’s family, all current and former Justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Cabinet, all U.S. Senators who voted to confirm Judge Jackson, members of House Democratic Leadership, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the chairs of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, Democratic members of Congress from Florida, and key stakeholders including labor leaders, Tribal leaders, and advocacy groups,’ the White House said on Friday morning.
The White House has pushed back to comparisions of Friday’s event to the September 2020 event in the White House Rose Garden where then-President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
That event turned into a super spreader, where multiple people in attendance – including President Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee and Chris Christie – later tested positive for covid.
Bedingfield said the country was in a different place than where it was for the Barrett announcement.
‘We’re in a very different place than we were, for example, when they held that event for Justice Barrett, which is to say, we have vaccines. We have treatments,’ she told CNN.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also defended Friday’s celebration, pointing out the event will be outside.
‘It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. That is a big factor,’ she said.
However, Psaki could not say if Judge Jackson had tested negative for covid on Thursday. Jackson joined Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to watch the Senate vote to confirm her to the Supreme Court. Photos show Biden and Jackson holding hands and hugging. Neither were wearing face masks.
President Joe Biden and Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson watch as the Senate votes on her confirmation from the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday
White House press secretary Jen Psaki spent the majority of Thursday’s press briefing defending the White House announcement that Biden was not in close contact with the speaker and repeatedly explaining the protocols the administration has in place to keep Biden from getting infected
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine (left) and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia (right) – both of whom were on the Senate floor on Thursday to vote for Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court – later tested positive for covid
The White House lifted its face mask policy after the case rate went down for the Washington D.C. area.
Psaki also dismissed concerns Jackson’s celebration could turn into a superspreader like Barrett event.
‘Well, one, at that point in time vaccines weren’t available. People were not vaccinated. It certainly puts us in a different space,’ she said.
The outdoor event comes after some guests at Tuesday and Wednesday’s indoor White House events tested positive for covid – including Speaker Pelosi and Kamala Harris’ communications director Jamal Simmons.
The vice president was considered a close contact to Simmons.
Harris was at Tuesday’s event celebrating the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, as was Pelosi. Pelosi hugged both Biden and former President Barack Obama, who was in attendance. Obama also hugged Simmons, who later announced his positive covid diagnosis.
Biden was not deemed a close contact to Pelosi because, the White House said, he did not meet the CDC guidelines of being within six feet of her for more than 15 minutes.
‘It did not meet that bar,’ Psaki said of Biden and Pelosi’s time together.
The tightening circle of positive cases around the president led to the repeated questions to Psaki about his safety and health.
She spent most of Thursday’s press briefing defending the administration’s protocols to keep Biden healthy.
Pskai said there were no plans to change covid protocols or reinstate a face mask policy for the White House.
‘We expected there to be ups and downs and increases,’ she said of the case rate.
She said there were no plans to test the president daily. Biden tested negative for covid on Wednesday evening and is tested regularly.
‘That would be a decision made by his doctor, but that is not deemed to be necessary at this point,’ Psaki said.
The past week has seen an uptick in positive tests – particularly among people who have access to Biden, leading to the questions about the policies in place to keep the 79-year-old from getting infected.
Vice President Kamala Harris wore a face mask in the halls of the Senate on Thursday after being deemed a close contact to a staffer who tested positive for covid
White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted President Joe Biden was not a close contact with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has tested positive for covid, despite the hugs and kiss on the cheek they shared – above Biden and Pelosi at a Tuesday event at the White House
Jamal Simmons (left) with former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris at an event at the White House on Tuesday; Simmons tested positive for covid on Wednesday
The White House has pushed back to comparisions of Friday’s event for Judget Jackson to the September 2020 event in the White House Rose Garden where then-President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court
That event turned into a super spreader, where multiple people in attendance – including President Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee and Chris Christie – later tested positive for covid
In addition to Pelosi, lawmakers, two cabinet officials and several members of the White House press corps tested positive for covid following Saturday’s Gridiron dinner – a white tie gathering of D.C. elite – and after a goodbye party for former National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne late last week.
Psaki said there were strict policies in place at the White House to protect the president and other principals.
‘We have incredibly stringent protocols here at the White House that we keep in place to keep the president safe. to keep everybody safe. Those go over and above CDC guidelines,’ she said.
She noted that senior staff are tested regularly and that anyone meeting with the president is tested.
‘If you’re going to see him in person, whether you’re traveling with him or you’re meeting in the Oval Office, you will be tested,’ she noted.
Pelosi was not at Saturday night’s Gridiron dinner, a white-tie event of Washington media and officials.
The Gridiron Club dinner is an off-camera, off-the-record event for members of the media. Politicians and other a-list figures are invited to its annual dinner.
The event features a Republican speaker, a Democratic speaker, and a speaker representing the sitting administration, along with a series of sketches performed by club members.
But Biden’s sister Valerie Biden Owens, 76, was at the Gridiron dinner and tested positive for covid, her publisher announced on Thursday. A planned party for her memoir was canceled and her publisher said she is not a close contact with the president or first lady.
Several members of Biden’s cabinet and lawmakers who were at the dinner later tested positive including: Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Senator Collins, and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Joaquin Castro.