House Democrat's Covid Diagnosis Marks Nearly A Dozen Breakthrough Cases In Congress Since July

By Andrew Solender, Forbes Staff


Rep. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) on Sunday announced that he tested positive for coronavirus, bringing Congress to nearly a dozen breakthrough cases since July as the Delta variant is keeping the rate of coronavirus infections in the U.S. persistently high.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 17: Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY) at a meeting of the house committee on rules to consider H. Res. 755 Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors on Capitol Hill on December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images) Getty Images

Key Facts

Morelle said in a tweet he tested positive after experiencing “mild symptoms” and will self-isolate until it is safe to return to work and “follow all guidance from the Center[s] for Disease Control & Prevention.”

Morelle is the 11th vaccinated member of Congress, out of about 470 members who were vaccinated as of late July, to contract the virus since Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) tested positive in late July as the Delta variant began to cause a new surge of the virus.

That roughly 2.5% breakthrough infection rate for Congress is slightly higher than the less than 1% nationwide breakthrough infection rate reported by Healthline and NBC News.

Most of those members said their symptoms were consistently mild throughout their illnesses and pointed to the vaccines as the reason, consistent with studies that suggest the vaccines are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death in rare breakthrough cases.

Morelle, who is 64, echoed his fellow lawmakers in crediting his infection’s lack of severity to the vaccines, tweeting, “Thankfully, I'm fully vaccinated so my symptoms remain mild.”

The House returns on Sunday to begin considering several major portions of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, though members have been given the ability to vote by proxy and attend hearings virtually, meaning Morelle will be able to participate.

Big Number

85%. That’s the share of House members who were vaccinated as of late July, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a floor speech. All House and Senate Democrats reported being vaccinated in a CNN survey in May, with three Republican senators and dozens of House members either not getting the vaccine or refusing to say if they’d gotten it.

Crucial Quote

"I've been vaccinated, and I got COVID anyway. A couple of really bad days but I'm doing better and I feel on the mend and I'm confident if I hadn't had the vaccine, it'd have been a lot worse," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who contracted coronavirus in August, said in a floor speech upon his return later that month.


While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month extended proxy voting until October, McCarthy is not giving up his quest to eliminate the pandemic safety measure. Last week he asked the Supreme Court to overturn the measure, with Pelosi’s office hitting back by pointing out that 97 House Republicans have voted by proxy.

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