Sen. Susan Collins of Maine tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is experiencing mild symptoms. She will remain in isolation in Washington for at least a few days, her office said.
Collins learned of the positive test at 4 p.m. Thursday, after casting her vote to approve Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Collins wore a mask in the Senate chamber, her staff said. The Senate voted 53-47 to confirm Jackson, with independent Sen. Angus King joining Collins in voting to endorse the nominee. Collins was just one of three Republican senators to support Jackson’s appointment.
“Senator Collins has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently experiencing mild symptoms. The senator will isolate and work remotely in accordance with CDC guidelines,” her office said in an email.
Collins decided to get tested Thursday after two journalists who sat at a table with her during Saturday evening’s Gridiron Club dinner in Washington notified her that they had tested positive, said Annie Clark, a spokesperson for Collins, in a phone interview Thursday night. Collins is fully vaccinated and has received at least one booster shot, her office said. No one in her office has tested positive for COVID this week.
Clark said that Collins is not certain she contracted COVID at the dinner. Collins and two other senators traveled Monday to United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss how the U.S. and the international community can best support women and girls in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. During their visit, the senators met with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan women, among others.
More than a dozen guests at the Gridiron Club dinner – including two Cabinet members, two members of Congress, and a top aide to Vice President Kamala Harris – have since tested positive for the coronavirus.
Guests were asked to show proof of vaccination but not negative tests, and many mingled freely without masks at the dinner at the downtown Renaissance Washington Hotel.
But by Wednesday, Reps. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo had announced they had tested positive. They were soon followed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who requested a test Wednesday afternoon after learning he may have been exposed. Thus far, none has reported serious illness.
President Biden appeared via video but didn’t attend the dinner. The white-tie-and-gowns dinner attracted about 630 guests, including members of Congress, the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, journalists, military, and business leaders. Among those in attendance were Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she has tested positive for COVID-19, a day after appearing unmasked at a White House event with Biden. Pelosi did not attend the Gridiron Club dinner.
Pelosi is currently asymptomatic, her spokesman Drew Hammill said in a tweet Thursday. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.
“The speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Hammill said. Pelosi, he said, will “quarantine consistent with CDC guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and tested regularly.”
Washington has experienced a rush of new COVID-19 cases as restrictions have lifted and more events and gatherings are happening across the city.