COVID ‘breakthrough’ case after Manchin houseboat party sends Senate into frenzy

The growing realization that those who have been vaccinated can still get COVID-19 hit home in the U.S. Senate on Monday when one of their own tested positive.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., announced Monday that he has tested positive despite being vaccinated, which is considered a breakthrough case of the coronavirus. News of the positive test sent the upper chamber into a frenzy of sorts, as Graham attended an outdoor event over the weekend with other senators hosted by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. The senators met on Manchin’s houseboat, “Almost Heaven.”

Taking to social media, Graham detailed his experience while pushing the benefits of getting vaccinated, which he attributed to the mildness of his symptoms.

“I started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor this morning,” he tweeted. “I feel like I have a sinus infection and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for ten days. I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now. My symptoms would be far worse.”

Manchin, who has tested negative for COVID-19, downplayed the notion that it was accurate to characterize the gathering as a party.

“When you say party, there’s no parties, basically there’s gatherings we have on ‘Almost Heaven’… so we know each other and talk to each other,” he said, according to CNBC. “We were outside. Okay? And we were all, everybody’s been vaccinated.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated guidelines to urge fully vaccinated people to return to wearing masks indoors in high-risk areas amid a surge of the highly contagious delta variant.

In the face of more and more “breakthrough” cases, which the CDC said are rare, the agency said new data showed vaccinated people who get infected could carry enough virus in their noses and throat to spread it to others, according to Fox News, which said health officials had previously stated that they were unlikely to spread the virus.

Other senators present at the party included Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Chris Coons, D-Del., John Thune, R-S.D., and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., their offices and NBC News confirmed. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., also attended, their offices confirmed with NBC News.

NBC News reported that Thune’s office confirmed that he had tested negative for the virus on Monday. Rosen also confirmed a negative test, as did Coons.

The CDC has said fully vaccinated people determined to have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic but should get tested within five days and wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until testing negative.

Graham is the first known “breakthrough” case in the Senate, and The Hill reported that the upper chamber had “largely loosened social distancing restrictions in recent months, with at least 96 of the 100 senators vaccinated.”

The political news website noted that “most Republicans” have not been heeding the Capitol physician’s recommendation to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, but didn’t note that the Senate is under Democrat control.

Tom Tillison

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