House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has tested positive for the coronavirus and is currently asymptomatic, her office said Thursday. Pelosi, 82, is the first in congressional leadership to test positive and the latest among Washington officials who have come down with the virus in recent days.
“The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. “The Speaker will quarantine consistent with CDC guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and test regularly.”
People who have tested positive for the coronavirus should isolate for five days, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which would mean Pelosi will need to do so until at least next Monday.
Pelosi did not attend the Gridiron Club dinner Saturday, after which more than a dozen guests — including two Cabinet members, two members of Congress and a top aide to Vice President Harris — tested positive for coronavirus. Those included Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
However, Pelosi, who is second in line in presidential succession, was at the White House on Tuesday for the health-care event with President Biden and former president Barack Obama, and she attended the bill signing on a postal reform measure with Biden on Wednesday. Images from both events show her in proximity to the president.
According to the White House, Biden tested negative for the coronavirus on Wednesday night and was not considered a “close contact” of Pelosi, as defined by the CDC.
“He will continue to be tested regularly. The President wishes Speaker Pelosi a speedy recovery,” the White House said in a statement.
Hammill’s announcement came as Pelosi was scheduled to hold a weekly news conference Thursday morning. Reporters waited for Pelosi, then began filing out of the room as news spread of her positive coronavirus test. The briefing was later canceled.
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Pelosi’s closest friend in Congress, said that she attended two events with the speaker Tuesday and Wednesday evening, the latter of which was a large party in honor of portrait unveiling of Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the retired congressman who served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“It was a very large gathering, it was a very large gathering, but she seemed to be in fine form,” Eshoo told reporters Thursday morning.
On Tuesday evening, Eshoo hosted a dinner party that also had the House speaker in attendance. Despite learning of her close friend’s diagnosis Thursday morning, Eshoo was not wearing a mask during votes or off the House floor, a decision that might change soon.
“It does, it gives me pause, it gives me pause,” she said, suggesting she would try to take a test before getting on a plane later today to fly back to her district outside San Francisco.
After nearly two years of being quite vigilant in wearing a mask, Pelosi pivoted last month on the day of the State of the Union address, sitting behind Biden, with Vice President Harris, not wearing a mask. Since then, she has mostly not worn a mask, even as some of her most senior advisers have worn them in public settings.
She is the first of the top four leaders of the House and Senate caucuses to test positive for the virus, but the pandemic has been rampaging throughout her caucus for the past few months. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) contracted the virus two months ago, while Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) tested positive just before Christmas as the omicron variant surge began. At least two junior members of her leadership team, Reps. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) and Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), have also tested positive, with Clark announcing her result Wednesday.
Pelosi became the 17th member of her caucus to announce a positive result since the Democrats held a two-day policy retreat in Philadelphia on March 10-11, according to a tally maintained by CNN.
Pelosi had also been planning to lead a congressional delegation to Taiwan and Japan this weekend, according to officials familiar with the speaker’s plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm them. Hammill said Thursday that Pelosi’s planned trip “to Asia … will be postponed to a later date.” Pelosi would have become the first House speaker to travel to Taiwan since Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did so in 1997.
Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden sent an unofficial delegation of former U.S. defense and national security officials to Taiwan in an effort to show that the United States’ commitment to Taiwan remained “rock solid,” according to a senior Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the trip then.
At the time, the official did not cite Ukraine specifically as the reason for the U.S. visit but noted that it followed “a long-standing bipartisan tradition” of presidential administrations sending “high-level, unofficial delegations” to Taiwan.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Taiwan to take steps to bolster its military readiness against a possible attack from China. China claims Taiwan as its own and has asserted that it could one day use force to take control of the self-ruled democracy — and Beijing has in recent months sharpened its rhetoric about a possible takeover. The United States has for decades not taken a position on the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the White House has asserted repeatedly that the United States opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.
Yasmeen Abutaleb, Paul Farhi, Tyler Pager, Roxanne Roberts and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.