White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took issue with a reporter who pressed the administration to be transparent with what was going on inside in the White House related to employees who test positive for COVID-19 and the number of employees who have been vaccinated.
Psaki refused to say the percentage of employees who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and suggested that the administration did not need to be transparent about the number of “breakthrough cases” they have had because “we’re in a very different place than we were six to seven months ago.”
“But why not just provide the number?” the reporter pressed. “Are you trying to hide something?”
“No, but what is the — why do you need to have that information?” Psaki fired back.
“It’s a case of transparency, in the interest of the public, knowing — having a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work here in the White House,” the reporter responded.
REPORTER: Thanks, Jen. Two questions on the vaccine. First, you had mentioned yesterday that every individual at this White House has been, quote, “offered” a vaccine. So, can you clarify, is the administration not mandating vaccines for White House staff?
PSAKI: No, we have not mandated.
REPORTER: Okay. And do you have a count or can you offer any confirmation to us on the percentage of employees who are vaccinated?
PSAKI: I’m not going to provide that. I will see if there is more information to provide.
REPORTER: Can you offer any guidance then on how you’re confirming vaccination status of employees?
PSAKI: Well, they’re vaccinated here in the White House Medical Unit, for the most part.
Go ahead. Oh, Kelly, I’m sorry. I’ll come to you next.
REPORTER: Two questions: One, this administration has long claimed that you’re trying to be the most transparent in history. If that’s the case, why won’t you just release the number of breakthrough cases that you’ve had of vaccinated staffers?
PSAKI: Well, I think, first, we’re in a very different place than we were six to seven months ago as it relates to the virus. And as many medical experts have said — inside and outside of the government — those who are vaccinated are protected from serious illness, most are asymptomatic — if they are individuals who are vaccinated who get the virus. And, you know, we are in a different place in terms of the impact of individuals who may have, as you said, breakthrough cases.
REPORTER: But why not just provide the number? Are you trying to hide something?
PSAKI: No, but what is the — why do you need to have that information?
REPORTER: It’s a case of transparency, in the interest of the public, knowing — having a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work here in the White House.
PSAKI: Well, first, there are — the CDC tracks — and let me give you this information, too: The CDC tracks, across the country, of course, hospitalizations and deaths, as we have seen. They also do a great deal of tracking in cohorts and ensure that — so, let me give you a little more information on this, which I think — I don’t know if it — hopefully, it’s of interest.
So, the way that — because people have asked this before — so, the way the CDC is actively tracking breakthrough cases — there are tens of thousands of people across the country, in course, who are in what we are — what they call “cohort studies,” which the CDC is actively monitoring.
For example, the CDC has a long-term care facility study where it is getting data from more than 14,000 long-term care facilities. CDC has a healthcare worker study where they monitor vaccinated healthcare workers who got tested — who get tested with PCR tests every single week. And CDC also collects what they call “passive surveillance,” which is where hospitals provide CDC with data when they identify someone who is hospitalized but has been vaccinated.
So there’s a range of means our public health officials are tracking, across the country, across D.C., across any individuals here about who is vaccinated, who is getting the virus, getting hospitalized — hopefully not; it remains a small percentage.