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Virus Cases Grow After White House Correspondents Dinner


WASHINGTON — On Saturday, the comedian Trevor Noah stood before a ballroom of two,600 journalists, celebrities and political elites on the White House Correspondents Dinner, and asked: What are we doing here?

“Did none of you learn anything from the Gridiron Dinner? Nothing,” Mr. Noah said, referring to a different elite Washington gathering in April, after which dozens of attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. “Do you read any of your individual newspapers?”

By Wednesday, Mr. Noah’s chiding remarks at what he called “the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event” were starting to seem prophetic as a growing variety of attendees, including a string of journalists and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, said that they had tested positive for the virus.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that President Biden had tested negative on Tuesday after attending the dinner unmasked. Ms. Psaki added that Mr. Blinken was not considered an in depth contact to Mr. Biden and “has not seen the president in several days.”

The growing variety of cases presented one other sign of an official Washington that has largely returned to prepandemic routines, at the same time as officials still urge Americans to take precautions, and has decided to live with the result.

Journalists across several major news organizations reported testing positive. Amongst those were Jonathan Karl, ABC News’s chief Washington correspondent, who shook hands with Mr. Biden in the course of the dinner, and Steve Herman, the chief national correspondent at Voice of America. CNN reported that those infected also included staff members from its network, in addition to NBC News, CBS News and Politico.

It was unclear what number of cases had been confirmed as of Wednesday evening. Steven Portnoy of CBS News, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said on Tuesday that the cases he knew of at the moment numbered within the “single digits.” Mr. Portnoy didn’t reply to requests for comment on Wednesday, though reports of latest cases continued to grow.

The White House Correspondents Dinner required proof of vaccination and a same-day negative test, and boosters were strongly encouraged. A few of the people reporting infections also said that they had attended other gatherings over the weekend.

Attendees of the dinner expressed resignation because the variety of confirmed cases grew over the course of the day on Wednesday.

“I’m yet one more #WHCA weekend casualty,” Julia Ioffe, a founding partner and Washington correspondent at Puck News, announced on Twitter on Wednesday. “I knew I used to be taking a risk and, well, here we’re!”

Mark Leibovich, a reporter at The Atlantic who attended the dinner and spoke briefly with Mr. Blinken at a gathering the day before, said there had been an expectation that some guests would test positive. He noted that he had tested negative for the virus on Wednesday evening.

“There was sort of a cruise ship vibe” to the dinner, said Mr. Leibovich, who was formerly a reporter at The Latest York Times. He added that when guests were contained in the ballroom, “there was no escape” from the crowds.

Jada Yuan, a reporter on the Washington Post who tested positive on Wednesday after attending the dinner, had said on the time that the ballroom was “like a horror film.”

“No exits. Literally getting trapped between tables,” Ms. Yuan wrote on Twitter. “Fear of respiratory near people but individuals are in every single place. Creeping sense that you simply’re the just one who know that is insane.”

Many attendees of the event, often known as the nerd prom, had undergone a superb deal of risk-benefit calculation, considering whether the possibility of contracting the coronavirus was price attending the dinner and its ritzy before- and after-parties.

The Post reported that some White House officials were apprehensive that safety measures for the dinner were insufficient, and that the White House Correspondents’ Association had rebuffed a proposal to have an organization install — at no charge — devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Mr. Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus, said he wouldn’t attend the dinner, citing his “individual assessment of my personal risk.” Dr. Fauci was later photographed attending a smaller outdoor pre-party before the dinner on Saturday.

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