• Wed. Oct 4th, 2023


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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that they had tested positive for the coronavirus, the latest in a series of prominent Democrats, lawmakers and Biden administration officials to say they had been infected.

Also Wednesday, Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the assistant House speaker, and Representative Scott Peters of California announced their own positive tests.

The Justice Department said in a statement that Mr. Garland, 69, asked to be tested after learning that he may have been exposed. Mr. Garland, who is vaccinated and boosted, was not experiencing symptoms and planned to work from home for at least five days, the department said. He will not return to the office before he tests negative at the end of that period.

The announcement about Mr. Garland came just hours after he delivered a news briefing at the Justice Department at 10 a.m., where he stood unmasked next to several other officials, including Christopher A. Wray, the director of the F.B.I. The Justice Department’s statement announcing the test result followed several hours later.

Mr. Garland addressed reporters for more than half an hour, often trading places with others at the briefing room podium.

A White House official said President Biden, who has not tested positive for the coronavirus, was not considered a close contact. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and asked for anonymity.

In a news briefing Wednesday afternoon, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that although cases are increasing among Congress, the press corps and the White House, the administration is not planning on toughening protocols and plans to continue its return to work plan.

But Ms. Psaki, who recently tested positive herself for a second time, added that the president has remained protected from the virus by taking “measures that go beyond what the C.D.C. protocols are,” like ensuring everyone who sees Mr. Biden is tested in advance and socially distancing in meetings with the president including in the Oval Office.

The president was last tested on Monday and received a negative result, according to the White House.

Ms. Raimondo, 50, tested positive after taking an at-home antigen test, the Commerce Department said in a statement on Wednesday. The secretary, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, was experiencing mild symptoms and would isolate and work at home for five days before taking another test, in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the department said.

Her office said it was conducting contact tracing and was in the process of notifying people with whom she may have been in close contact.

Ms. Clark, 58, said on Twitter on Wednesday morning that she had tested positive for the virus and was experiencing mild symptoms. She said she had been vaccinated and boosted.

“I am grateful to our health care professionals and researchers who have given us the tools to manage this deadly virus,” she said.

Mr. Peters tweeted that he is “feeling fine — thanks to being vaccinated and boosted,” and will isolate at home while his office remains fully operational.

Jamal Simmons, the vice president’s communications director, also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, according to a White House statement. He will be isolating and working from home, but Mr. Simmons was in close contact to Vice President Kamala Harris. She will follow consult with her physician and plans to continue with her public schedule.

The officials who announced their test results on Wednesday came the day after three other House Democrats — Representatives Joaquin Castro of Texas, Adam Schiff of California and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida — said they had tested positive.

The positive tests are a reminder that, even as top officials seek to pivot away from strict restrictions and encourage Americans to learn to live with the coronavirus, the pandemic continues, driven by the emergence of a new, highly contagious subvariant whose spread is alarming experts.

In March, at least nine House Democrats announced positive tests in a span of five days, with more than half of those cases emerging after lawmakers attended a party retreat in Philadelphia. Two other lawmakers who did not attend the retreat also tested positive during the same time.

Hillary Clinton and Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, also tested positive for the virus in March, as did Ms. Psaki, who tested positive for the second time in five months, one day before she was scheduled to join Mr. Biden on a diplomatic trip to Europe.

Katie Rogers contributed reporting.