Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on Sunday that she tested positive for COVID-19, as the latest virus variant has begun spreading across the nation nearly two years into the pandemic.
“I regularly test for COVID & while I tested negative earlier this week, today I tested positive with a breakthrough case. Thankfully, I am only experiencing mild symptoms & am grateful for the protection provided against serious illness that comes from being vaccinated & boosted,” the Massachusetts Democrat tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
“As cases increase across the country, I urge everyone who has not already done so to get the vaccine and the booster as soon as possible — together, we can save lives,” she continued, linking to a government site that provides vaccine information.
Warren, 72, was last on the Senate floor just days ago, before the chamber went into recess. It’s not immediately clear how she got infected, and which variant she contracted.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) also announced on Twitter Sunday that he had contracted a breakthrough case of COVID-19:
Booker then encouraged everyone who was eligible to get vaccinated and boosted against the coronavirus.
The world is grappling with the new omicron variant, which officials warn appears to be more transmissible than the delta variant. Much remains unknown about the latest strain, but scientists say that those who have been vaccinated — and especially those who received a booster — are the most protected.
“The one thing that’s very clear, and there’s no doubt about this, is its extraordinary capability of spreading, its transmissibility capability. It is just, you know, raging through the world,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s medical adviser and top infectious disease expert, told NBC News on Sunday. “And if you look even here in the United States, you have some regions that start off with a few percent of the isolates that are positive, now going up to 30%, 40%, and some places 50%.”
Being inoculated, however, does not completely erase the possibility of breakthrough infections. In Warren’s case, the senator became infected after getting vaccinated and receiving her booster shot, but stressed that those precautions are the very reason her symptoms are so mild.
U.S. officials have intensified calls for unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated as places like New York City and Washington, D.C., are experiencing skyrocketing positivity rates. So far, however, city data shows that new hospitalizations and deaths are well below their spring 2020 peak, as well as below where they were this time last year.
Still, President Joe Biden warned unvaccinated Americans on Thursday that they face a winter of “severe illness and death” amid the surge in new infections and the omicron variant’s spread. He repeated his calls for unvaccinated people to get their shots, saying that preliminary evidence shows vaccines provide protection against severe infection from all variants of COVID-19.
All Americans are eligible for a booster shot within six months of their initial course of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine are eligible for a booster shot after two months. Preliminary data shows that individuals who received a booster shot continue to have substantial omicron-fighting antibodies weeks later, but that those who received only two doses of an mRNA vaccine didn’t have as strong protection.
Biden plans to speak Tuesday on the status of measures to cut down on COVID-19 and discuss government assistance for communities who need it, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She also said that the president will be “issuing a stark warning of what the winter will look like for Americans that choose to remain unvaccinated.”
―Jade Walker also contributed to this story.