Three U.S. senators announced on Thursday that they tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of senators who contracted so-called “breakthrough infections” just this month to four.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. Angus King (I-ME) are both vaccinated but said within hours of each other on Thursday that they had sought tests after experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and are now isolating.
Wicker, 70, said through a spokesman he’s in “good health” with “mild symptoms.” In a statement, King, 77, emphasized the efficacy of the vaccine in explaining his situation.
“While I am not feeling great, I’m definitely feeling much better than I would have without the vaccine,” King said.
Hours later, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), 69, announced he too had contracted a breakthrough. “I’m grateful for the vaccine (and the scientists behind it) for limiting my symptoms,” he said.
On Aug. 3, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) became the first vaccinated U.S. senator to make public their COVID diagnosis after experiencing “flu-like symptoms.” He too used it as an opportunity to talk up the vaccine.
“I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now,” Graham said in a tweet.
The spate of breakthrough infections, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, is complicating Congress’ return to normal business after 16 months of the pandemic. By June, authorities in both the House and Senate had ended masking requirements and social distancing rules for lawmakers, staff, and reporters.
Amid rising COVID numbers in late July, however, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reimposed mask requirements, sparking uproar in the GOP. By the time the Senate departed for its summer recess in mid-August, masks were a common sight on Capitol Hill.
Members of Congress were among the first in the country to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine: shots started going into lawmakers’ arms in December 2020. The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the efficacy of those shots is beginning to wear off, and the Biden administration approved plans to allow a third booster shot for those vaccinated at least eight months ago—roughly the same timespan from when these senators got their first shots and when they tested positive.
—with reporting from Zoe Richards