WASHINGTON – Attorney General Merrick Garland has tested positive for COVID-19 and will quarantine at home for five days, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Garland is the second Cabinet official to announce a positive test result on Wednesday. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo also tested positive for the virus using an at-home antigen test.
The two officials are among more than a dozen attendees of the Gridiron Club dinner to test positive for the virus in the past few days. Saturday night's white-tie society affair was attended by some of the nation’s most prominent political leaders, journalists and media executives. Guests had been asked to show proof of vaccination but were not required to be tested for the virus and many mingled around without masks during the event.
Tom DeFrank, the president of the Gridiron Club, said the group knew of 14 guests who had attended and then tested positive. Many of the cases involve guests who were seated at three tables, he said.
“There is no way of being certain about when they first contracted COVID,” DeFrank said. “But they did interact with other guests during the night, and we have to be realistic and expect some more cases.”
The announcement from the Justice Department comes hours after Garland held a news conference in Washington, standing side-by-side with the deputy attorney general, FBI director and other Justice Department officials.
The Justice Department says Garland asked to be tested “after learning that he may have been exposed to the virus.” Officials say he is not experiencing symptoms, is fully vaccinated and has received a booster.
The Justice Department said Garland would isolate at his home for at least five days and work remotely. The department said it would also conduct contact tracing in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Raimondo's office said she was experiencing “mild symptoms” and was sharing the news “out of an abundance of transparency."
The nation’s capital appears to be experiencing an outbreak, hitting not only Cabinet officials but also members of Congress, staffers in the White House and members of the media.
Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Joaquin Castro, D-Tex., have also announced they tested positive for the virus. Both had attended the Gridiron dinner.
Other members of Congress including Reps. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Scott Peters of California, both Democrats, have also said they tested positive.
The White House on Wednesday also said Jamal Simmons, the communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris, had also tested positive and that Simmons was in close contact with Harris. Harris' office said she would follow CDC guidelines and consult with her doctor but planned to continue with her schedule.
The CDC says people vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 are much less likely to suffer adverse outcomes, including serious illness and death, from the virus compared to those who are unvaccinated.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.