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The Capitol is a COVID petri dish as the Delta variant surges

Congress, staffers and reporters are wearing masks again as Capitol Hill faces a new wave of the coronavirus despite widespread vaccinations.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is surging, and Congress is a potential petri dish for the new variant. House and Senate leaders are weighing whether to reintroduce coronavirus protocols to the Capitol. While most lawmakers have been vaccinated, they fit high-risk profiles and work in close quarters.


  • Senators and representatives also have been flying around the country visiting their home districts, fundraising and campaigning.

Driving the news: Shortly after Axios scooped that a White House official and a staff member for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both tested positive for the virus, the phones for Axios reporters blew up with congressional aides saying the problem is even more widespread on the Hill.

  • The Office of the Attending Physician indicated as much, sending a letter to members Tuesday afternoon confirming "several vaccinated congressional staff members and one member of Congress have acquired infection in this circumstance."
  • "The Delta variant virus has been detected in Washington, D.C., and in the Capitol buildings," attending physician Brian P. Monahan wrote.
  • The letter did not instruct lawmakers to implement new protocols but urged them to stay tuned.
  • Democratic leadership aides in the House and Senate told Axios that, as of now, they have no plans to make any changes.

The latest: Many people on the Hill — particularly those with family members and children too young to get vaccinated — have taken matters into their own hands.

  • After weeks of not seeing a mask, multiple people in the halls of Congress have masked up again.
  • Axios' Sarah Mucha also saw the longest line in recent memory at the Capitol COVID testing site.

The good news: Those who are fully vaccinated and testing positive for the virus are overwhelmingly experiencing only mild symptoms, if any at all.

  • Roughly 66% of eligible Americans have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and about 57% are fully vaccinated.

The bad news: It's still unclear how successful the vaccine is in guarding against transmission, particularly the Delta variant.

  • That's a huge problem for people everywhere, compounded by a crowded and enclosed environment such as the Hill.

Many vaccinated Hill aides told Axios they haven't been getting tested, even if they do experience mild symptoms, because they've assumed it's just a cold.

  • And they say they expect the vaccine to protect them regardless.

What to watch: Major conservative voices have spoken out in the last 24 hours emphasizing the importance of vaccines following the Delta variant surge.

Massive California blaze levels town, threatens others as it burns out of control

The small Sierra town of Greenville, Calif., was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The big picture: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze and the sixth-largest wildfire in state history, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County.

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Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine "remains durable" with 93% efficacy through 6 months

Moderna said Thursday that its coronavirus vaccine was 93% effective against COVID-19 through six months after receiving the second dose.

Why it matters: The number shows that efficacy "remains durable" through that time, and hardly wanes from the 94.5% efficacy Moderna reported last November. But the clinical trial, which started in July 2020, was conducted before the Delta variant became the common strain in the U.S.

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U.S. women's soccer team beats Australia, wins Olympic bronze

The U.S. women's soccer team won the bronze medal on Thursday after beating ninth-ranked Australia 4-3.

Why it matters: Thursday's victory marks the U.S. team's first bronze in Olympic history, handing the team a medal after it failed to earn one during the Rio Games in 2016.

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Top Democratic operatives mapped out how to defend Kamala Harris at high-powered dinner

A group of the Democratic Party's most influential women met for dinner at a home in the nation’s capital last month to game out how to defend Vice President Kamala Harris and her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, against a torrent of bad press.

Why it matters: It's telling that so early in the Biden-Harris administration, such powerful operatives felt compelled to try to right the vice president's ship.

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In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 13 highlights

Day 13 of the Tokyo Olympic Games saw Team USA's men's basketball team beat Australia 97-78 on Thursday to advance to the gold medal game.

The big picture: Kevin Durant led the charge with 23 points to help the U.S. secure a final spot against either France or Slovenia on Saturday local time. Elsewhere, the U.S. added to its gold medals count, with shot putter Ryan Crouser and teenage canoeist Nevin Harrison both winning their events.

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Judge to Capitol rioter: Insurrection is "not patriotism"

A federal judge sentencing a Michigan man in D.C. Wednesday over his role in the U.S. Capitol riot dismissed any notion that he's a political prisoner.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that she wasn't sentencing Karl Dresch, of Calumet, "because he is a supporter" of former President Trump, noting that "millions of people" had voted for him "and did not heed his call to descend on the nation's Capitol," per the Detroit News.

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2 wildfires ravage Northern California homes as thousands evacuate

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the Greenville area of Plumas County Wednesday night, per AP. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes. Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for both fires.

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Landlords mount legal challenge to Biden administration's new eviction moratorium

A group of landlords and real-estate companies issued a legal challenge on Wednesday night in a D.C. district court to the Biden administration's new national eviction moratorium.

Driving the news: The Alabama and Georgia Associations of Realtors' emergency motion argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's order Tuesday barring evictions for most of the U.S. through Oct. 3 exceeds the CDC's powers, according to a statement from the National Association of Realtors.

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