Delta hits the White House

Source: Politico | July 20, 2021 | Alex Thompson and Tina Sfondeles

Press secretary JEN PSAKI made news today when she told reporters that there have been multiple positive Covid-19 cases among White House staffers, despite being vaccinated.

It wasn’t just news to the reporters, however.

Many White House staffers also found out about the “breakthrough cases,” as Psaki called them, from her press briefing today. The White House does not notify all the people who work in the building when there is a positive test, believing that contract tracing is sufficient, according to people familiar with the disclosure process.

The White House’s standard for publicly disclosing cases also is limited. Going back to the transition, the White House only discloses positive cases when the person is a “commissioned officer” — those staffers who have “assistant to the president,” “deputy assistant to the president,” or “special assistant to the president” in their title. Psaki confirmed today that that policy remains in place.

Of the 524 staffers in the White House, only 138 carry such titles, meaning that the White House does not disclose positive cases for about three-quarters of the staff.

Not all senior White House officials are commissioned officers.

Senior advisers ANITA DUNN and NEERA TANDEN, for example, do not fall into this category, nor does American Rescue Plan coordinator GENE SPERLING.

The White House declined to comment on why they haven’t expanded their disclosures of staffers who contract the virus or the number of other staffers who recently tested positive. The White House also declined to comment on whether there had been transmission between staffers in past cases. But there is a sense inside the White House that the high levels of vaccination among staff make Covid breakthrough cases far less problematic events and should be treated as such.


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