Washington (US), April 10: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Saturday that he had tested positive for COVID-19, joining dozens of others who have contracted the coronavirus after attending the annual Gridiron Club dinner last week.
Vilsack, 71, tweeted that he's both vaccinated and boosted and that "thankfully my symptoms are mild."
"If you have yet to get vaccinated and boosted, please don't wait," he added.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced their positive tests days after attending the elite Gridiron Club and Foundation dinner in downtown Washington, D.C. last Saturday.
At least 53 individuals who attended the white-tie event had tested positive for COVID-19, according to Gridiron President Tom DeFrank.
"All guests at the Gridiron Club dinner were required to show proof of vaccination. We understand that some of our guests have reported positive tests since the dinner," DeFrank said in a statement obtained by U.S. media outlets. "We wish them a speedy recovery."
Leana Wen, professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University (GWU), tweeted that the Gridiron Club dinner "was probably a #covid19 superspreader."
The total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has exceeded 80 million, with over 985,000 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 has recently become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the nation.
Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at the GWU Medical Center, tweeted that the coronavirus outbreak at the Gridiron Club dinner "illustrates how massively transmissible BA.2 is, and how much of a mistake it was to summarily drop all mitigation while we're still in the pandemic phase of this virus."
"It is not safe now to gather in large numbers in confined spaces without masks," Reiner warned. "It's irresponsible to require people to figure this out on their own."