Yes, many guests of White House correspondents test positive

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Washington’s annual big news media dinner last Saturday appears to be linked to an outbreak of coronavirus infections, validating concerns about the spread of the virus among guests at the event attended by President Biden.

Reports of positive cases among those who were at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner or its many related pre- and post-parties have been appearing on social media since Tuesday morning.

Among those who tested positive: ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, ABC News President Kim Godwin and Secretary of State Antoine Blinken. The State Department said Blinken, who is vaccinated, has mild symptoms and is quarantined at home.

During the event, Karl sat next to reality TV starlet Kim Kardashian and her boyfriend, “Saturday Night Live” cast member Pete Davidson. Karl also shook hands with Biden, who limited his time in the underground ballroom to around an hour. Karl declined to comment.

Employees of CNN, NBC News, CBS News, Politico, Voice of America, Puck News and The Washington Post also tested positive, according to social media posts, text messages, emails and news accounts. Among the journalists who have publicly acknowledged positive tests are YuanJadawho covered dinner for The Post.

Party before – and long after – the correspondents’ dinner

Several of those who reported positive tests said they were aware of the risks of attending dinner – while well below recent peaks, the national caseload has recently started to rise again – but did not regret their decision to go.

“I believe I am one of the few known positive tests among the 2,600 participants. As a percentage, it’s small — the opposite of winning the lottery,” said Steve Herman, VOA’s chief national correspondent. “WHCA had a great protocol in place for participants with proof of vaccines and a negative test on the day.” Herman said he had “no regrets” attending the dinner.

There are no reports of hospitalizations among those affected, likely due to widespread vaccinations among those who participated.

A person who attended 10 dinner-related parties between Thursday night and Sunday morning but did not go to the main event on Saturday night said he tested positive earlier this week and has strep-like symptoms, including a bad cough.

“I understood there was a risk and I knew it was up to me to assess it,” said the person, who asked not to be named to protect his privacy. “In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I still would have gone.”

A third person, who also requested anonymity, said they knew the risks but “I feel like it was worth it” to attend. She said she had a sore throat for a day “and that was it”.

The White House Correspondents Association, which hosted the annual dinner at the Washington Hilton, does not maintain a guest list and does not have an official tally of the number of positive tests. The association sells tables to news organizations, which then distribute invitations to employees, their spouses, advertisers and others.

The early indication, however, is that the dinner attended by 2,600 people could well be what the performer of the evening, comedian Trevor Noah, joked was “the most distinguished broadcast event in the world”. . During his performance on Saturday, he faked a lecture to the mostly maskless crowd, “Did any of you learn anything from the Gridiron Dinner?” – referring to another elite dinner in Washington, held on April 3, after which 85 of 630 attendees tested positive.

WHCA President Steven Portnoy of CBS said the group requires every guest to submit a negative coronavirus test as well as vaccination records. In addition, anyone likely to come into contact with the president, such as Karl, has taken a “medically supervised” test beforehand.

“We have worked hard to raise awareness of our protocols and to encourage those who are eligible to receive reminders in the weeks leading up to dinner,” Portnoy said in a statement. “Our event implemented protocols that went above and beyond any guidelines or regulations issued by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the DC Health Department.

On Tuesday afternoon, Portnoy said in an interview that he was aware of “a small number of cases, in the single digits.”

But that number was likely to rise as people showed symptoms and got tested. Researchers recommend that a vaccinated person wait three to five days after a suspected exposure to get tested, as earlier tests tend to be less accurate. Positive results can appear almost a week after exposure.

The Correspondents’ Dinner was preceded and followed by packed parties sponsored by media organizations. These took place in restaurants, embassies, offices and other event spaces around Washington. It is possible that some dinner guests already carry infections that did not register during the same-day tests they took.

The nation’s top infectious disease doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, had originally planned to attend the dinner but declined several days earlier, citing concerns about his personal health risk.

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