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Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin tests positive for Covid while in D.C. to meet Biden

Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin tested positive for Covid on Wednesday night and had to leave the Ireland Funds Gala event, where he was photographed sitting maskless beside Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Few could be seen wearing face masks at Thursday night’s gathering at the National Building Museum, where President Joe Biden delivered remarks onstage for roughly 15 minutes. He left the event after his speech. Pelosi, 81, who appeared to be having a conversation at the dinner table with Martin, is second in line behind Vice President Kamala Harris in the presidential line of succession.

POLITICO asked the White House about Martin’s location at the event and whether reports that Biden interacted with the prime minister before the gala’s dinner started were accurate. According to the timeline from press pool reports, the president was at the event for roughly 30 minutes between arrival and taking the stage. It’s not clear what Biden was doing, or who he was interacting with, during that time.

In response to questions, the White House said it didn’t “have anything further to add.”

Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on where Martin was seated, and how this might affect testing protocols and Thursday’s schedule for the House speaker, who was expected to attend events for St. Patrick’s Day.

Martin is in Washington for holiday celebrations and was scheduled to meet with Biden on Thursday at the White House. Martin and Biden were then supposed to deliver remarks at the Annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the Capitol. Thursday night, he and his wife, Mary Martin, were scheduled to join Biden and first lady Jill Biden for a shamrock presentation at the White House.

Martin’s positive test comes as Washington, the White House and Capitol Hill move to ease pandemic restrictions, including mask mandates, amid a drop in coronavirus cases. Although there’s been a lull in the pandemic, and while Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say 98 percent of the population can go mask-free, cases are again rising in Europe and the Western Pacific, a potential warning sign that another wave could be coming to the U.S.

Biden, 79, is fully vaccinated and received a booster dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in September. January data published by the CDC shows that third doses are at least 90 percent effective at keeping Americans infected by the Omicron variant out of the hospital. The extra shots are even more important for adults 50 and older.

The White House announced on Tuesday that second gentleman Doug Emhoff had tested positive for Covid — the first known case of the virus in the first and second families since they took office in January 2021 — which kept Vice President Kamala Harris from attending an event with Biden on Tuesday evening.

Both Biden and Harris have avoided testing positive for Covid so far, even after multiple exposures during the surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

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Author: POLITICO