Dozens Of New Coronavirus Infections Reported After Gridiron Dinner

The number of people who tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the elite Gridiron Club dinner in Washington rose to 53 on Friday, all but confirming that the April 2 event marked a significant outbreak.

The latest count suggests that at least 8 percent of the 630 journalists, politicians and VIPS who attended the annual dinner have reported positive tests.

Those testing positive include Attorney General Merrick Garland; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine); President Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens; Democratic Reps. Joaquin Castro (Tex.) and Adam B. Schiff (Calif.); and top aides to Vice President Harris and first lady Jill Biden.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser also reported positive tests this week, though neither attended the event at the downtown Renaissance Washington Hotel.

Neither did President Biden, who has not reported being infected.

However, Pelosi was in close contact with Biden during a White House ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate the enactment of a new law to modernize the U.S. Postal Service. She announced the next day that she had tested positive.

Although the city’s number of virus cases is relatively low, the outbreak has created national news and raised concerns about a wave of rollbacks to coronavirus safeguards across the country.

White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said in an interview with CNN on Friday that it was “possible” that Biden will eventually develop covid-19, but the White House is continuing precautions that include tests for anyone entering the grounds.

Among those who reported a positive test after attending Saturday’s dinner was Jamal Simmons, the vice president’s communications director. Simmons said he is isolating at home and has consulted a doctor because he had been in close contact with Harris before his positive result.

Since the first positive tests stemming from the dinner emerged Wednesday, the reported number has jumped from 14 on Wednesday to 37 on Thursday and to 53 Friday afternoon. Tom DeFrank, the club’s president, confirmed the latest figure in an email.

He said the number of new reported positive cases appears to be declining, though he said it was impossible to know how many more would emerge.

“Happily there are no reports of anything serious,” he said, “just sore throats or mild fever.” He declined to identify anyone reporting a positive test.

Guests at the dinner — an annual affair that was canceled the past two years because of the pandemic — showed proof of vaccination but were not required to submit a negative coronavirus test. They mingled freely without masks during the cocktail reception and the hours-long dinner, which featured lighthearted speeches and political skits performed by journalists, including one with performers dressed as the coronavirus.

One song parody involved an actor playing Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, singing, ” “Doctor, doctor, give me some clues, we’ve got a bad case of covid blues.”

Fauci and Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were both in attendance.

The larger and better-known White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is scheduled for April 30. It typically includes a number of pre- and post-dinner parties as well as an array of crowded receptions sponsored by media organizations, including The Washington Post.

None of the organizations have so far announced plans to cancel their events.

The president typically attends the White House correspondents’ dinner, but Biden hasn’t announced his plans yet.

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