POLITICO asked the White House about Martin’s location at the event and whether reports that Biden interacted with the prime minister before the gala’s dinner started were accurate. According to the timeline from press pool reports, the president was at the event for roughly 30 minutes between arrival and taking the stage. It’s not clear what Biden was doing, or who he was interacting with, during that time.
In response to questions, the White House said it didn’t “have anything further to add.”
Pelosi’s office on Thursday said that the Friends of Ireland lunch, which the House speaker was scheduled to attend, will proceed, but that Martin will not be in attendance.
Though Congress’ mask mandate was dropped last month, Pelosi wore an N95 mask walking up to and leaving the podium during her Thursday press conference. She didn’t specify how long she was at the dinner table with Martin on Wednesday, but said he wore a mask at the beginning of the dinner and removed it to eat. Pelosi said Martin left during the appetizer course and that she wasn’t concerned about her health, adding that she’s tested almost every day.
“In consultation with the Office of Attending Physician, the Speaker will continue regular testing and follow CDC guidance,” Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said in a statement.
Martin’s positive test comes as Washington, the White House and Capitol Hill move to ease pandemic restrictions, including mask mandates, amid a drop in coronavirus cases. Although there’s been a lull in the pandemic, and while Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say 98 percent of the population can go mask-free, cases are again rising in Europe and the Western Pacific, a potential warning sign that another wave could be coming to the U.S.
Both Biden, 79, and Pelosi, 81, are fully vaccinated and have received their booster doses. January data published by the CDC shows that third doses are at least 90 percent effective at keeping Americans infected by the Omicron variant out of the hospital. The extra shots are even more important for adults 50 and older.
The White House announced on Tuesday that second gentleman Doug Emhoff had tested positive for Covid — the first known case of the virus in the first and second families since they took office in January 2021 — which kept Vice President Kamala Harris from attending an event with Biden on Tuesday evening.
Both Harris and Shalanda Young were masked for Young’s official swearing in as the permanent White House Office of Management and Budget director on Thursday. Harris has no other public events scheduled for the day.
“He’s doing well, thank you for asking,” Harris said, when a reporter asked about Emhoff.
Both Biden and Harris have avoided testing positive for Covid so far, even after multiple exposures during the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.