Graham says he has COVID-19 ‘breakthrough’ infection

“I was just informed by the House physician I have tested positive for COVID-19 even after being vaccinated,” he said.

“I started having flu-like symptoms Saturday night and went to the doctor this morning. I feel like I have a sinus infection and at present time I have mild symptoms. I will be quarantining for ten days,” he added.

Graham was one of 17 GOP senators who have been helping advance a bipartisan infrastructure bill, meaning its supporters will be down a vote until he comes out of quarantine. They only need 10 GOP senators to support it if every Democrat does.

Graham is the first senator known to test positive for the coronavirus in months, and the first known “breakthrough” case among vaccinated senators. A CNN survey earlier this year found that only four out of 100 senators, at the time, were not vaccinated.

Graham’s announcement comes amid growing public concern about the potential for so-called breakthrough cases, when a fully vaccinated person tests positive for the coronavirus.

Public health officials have stressed that symptomatic breakthrough infections for fully vaccinated individuals are rare and getting vaccinated makes getting a severe case of the coronavirus less likely.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated Americans have had a breakthrough case that results in hospitalization or death.

Graham, in his statement, touted the vaccine, saying that if he wasn’t vaccinated “my symptoms would be far worse.”

“I am very glad I was vaccinated because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now,” he said.

After largely shedding their masks in mid-May after the CDC loosened its mask guidance for vaccinated individuals, the CDC and the Capitol physician recommended last week that everyone wear a mask when indoors and around others regardless of vaccination status.

Though the House has mandated masks, the guidance to the Senate is only a recommendation. That sparked a mostly partisan split in the upper chamber. Democrats largely wore masks while walking between their offices and the Capitol, though several shed them when they were on the floor with other senators.

Republicans have largely stopped wearing masks.

Graham was spotted in the Capitol on Monday morning and spoke briefly with reporters. He was wearing a mask and appeared to be in a hurry, both of which caught the attention of reporters.

Spokespeople for the South Carolina Republican didn’t immediately respond to a question about if, or when, he alerted leadership or other Senate offices to his test result.

But Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who said she was wearing a mask in accordance with the CDC’s new guidance, was not aware that Graham had tested positive.

“I haven’t seen him and I didn’t know that,” Murkowski said when asked about her mask. “I am wearing it because we’re in the District, and the District has imposed a mask mandate.”

A group of senators, including Graham, had gathered on Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) houseboat over the weekend, a source confirmed to The Hill.

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) were also at the gathering on Manchin’s houseboat with Graham. CDC guidance says fully vaccinated individuals should get tested three to five days after a potential exposure and wear a mask for up to 14 days unless they get a negative test result.

“Senator Kelly came into contact with Senator Graham during a bipartisan gathering this weekend hosted by Senator Manchin. Senator Kelly is fully vaccinated and following CDC guidelines and the advice of the Office of the Attending Physician,” a spokesperson for Kelly said.

Sam Runyon, a spokeswoman for Manchin, said that he is “fully vaccinated and following the CDC guidelines for those exposed to a COVID positive individual.”


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