The White House announced Wednesday that it was changing its COVID-19 disclosure policy and will now be announcing any positive tests among officials who come into contact with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, or their spouses.
White House press secretary told reporters about the policy change while aboard Air Force One en route to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Biden traveled to drum up support for his economic agenda.
“Because of our commitment to transparency, what we’re going to be providing, moving forward, are updates on any White House official who tests positive for COVID-19 that the White House medical unit deemed as having had close contact with the president, vice president, first lady, or second gentleman,” Psaki said, adding that White House staff have been informed about the policy shift.
“I’d also note, today an email from our COVID-19 operations protocol team has been sent to White House staff, informing them of the official policy, that if you are in close contact with the principal and test positive for COVID-19, your case will be disclosed to press along with any other relevant details,” she said.
Psaki’s update came after she told reporters on Tuesday that there had been multiple breakthrough COVID-19 infections at the White House that had not previously been revealed. Breakthrough cases refer to COVID-19 infections that occur in fully vaccinated people.
Her remarks on Tuesday followed reports that a White House staffer and an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had both tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, despite both being vaccinated.
“In accordance with our rigorous COVID-19 protocols, the official remains off campus as they wait for a confirmatory PCR test. The White House Medical Unit has conducted contact tracing interviews and determined no close contacts among White House principals or staff or the president,” Psaki said of the White House official who tested positive, adding that the individual was showing mild symptoms.
Psaki did not disclose how many other breakthrough cases there have been among White House staff.
“The White House is prepared for breakthrough cases with regular testing. This is another reminder of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines against severe illness or hospitalization. We wish our colleague a speedy recovery,” she added.
On Tuesday, prior to the update, Psaki said the Biden administration’s policy was to release information on COVID-19 infections only if they occurred among a relatively small group of senior officials, known as commissioned officers.
“According to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers,” she said.
White House commissioned officers fall into one of three categories: assistant to the president, deputy assistant to the president, or special assistant to the president. According to a July report to Congress on White House personnel (pdf), there are over 130 staffers who fall into the above categories.