White House declines to release number of breakthrough COVID-19 cases among vaccinated staff

WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday refused to release the number of groundbreaking COVID-19 cases among vaccinated employees after an employee tested positive for the virus earlier this week.
Press secretary Jen Psaki suggested the public would not need this information even as U.S. vaccination efforts ease and COVID cases increase due to the more contagious Delta variant.
When asked about data on breakthrough cases at the White House on Friday, Psaki found that vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are much less likely to become seriously ill or die.
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"Nothing in this world is 100%": Anyone who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can become infected, but serious illnesses are rare
"As many medical experts inside and outside the government have said, those who are vaccinated are protected from serious illnesses," Psaki said during the White House briefing. "Most are asymptomatic when it comes to people who have been vaccinated."
She said the impact of landmark cases is limited as the country is now "in a different place" than it was six or seven months ago, when the Biden government's vaccination campaign was gaining traction.
When Psaki was pushed again by a reporter, he asked, "Why do you need this information?"
For "transparency, in the public interest and a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work here at the White House," the reporter replied.
More: White House official, Pelosi advisor, tested positive for coronavirus after attending the event together
Psaki noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working with state and territorial health authorities to investigate breakthrough infections.
According to the CDC, 56.4% of Americans had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday. That number falls short of the White House's goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by July 4th. As of Thursday, 48.8% of Americans were fully vaccinated.
Earlier this week, a White House official and an adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, tested positive for the coronavirus after attending an event together. Both the White House official and Pelosi staff were fully vaccinated.
More: Amid fears of COVID-19 cases in Congress and the White House, experts are calling for vaccinations
COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective but do not offer 100% protection from the virus. That means a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 after exposure to the virus that causes it, according to the CDC.
However, vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are much less likely to become seriously ill or die. The CDC works with state and local health officials to identify breakthrough cases that lead to hospitalization or death. As of July 12, of the more than 159 million fully vaccinated people in the United States, approximately 5,500 had been hospitalized or died of COVID-19.
More: Panicked cities pushed Biden for bailouts during the pandemic. Months later, some are slow to pass.
Earlier this week, Psaki said more than one breakthrough case had occurred at the White House but declined to elaborate.
She told reporters on Wednesday that some landmark cases are inevitable as there are 2,000 people on the White House campus every day. She said the administration will release information if doctors discover a staff member has been in close contact with the president, vice president, or their spouse.
Reach out to Rebecca Morin on Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House Refuses to Post Number of Breakthrough COVID Cases
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Jen Psaki
American political advisor and White House press secretary

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