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State of the Union attendance required a COVID test. 6 legislators tested positive

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. (from left); Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.; Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.; Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images; Karen Ducey/Getty Images; Samuel Corum/Getty Images; Alex Brandon/AP
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif. (from left); Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif.; Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md.; Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.; and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-Pa.

At least six legislators announced Tuesday that they had tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the evening's State of the Union address.

To attend Tuesday's speech, guests — even those who are fully vaccinated — are required to produce a negative test.

Sen. Alex Padilla of California, Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida and Rep. Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania — all Democrats — announced by statements or tweets on Tuesday that they had tested positive.

Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., said on Friday that she had tested positive.

Typically, a State of the Union is attended by 1,500 people or more. Members of Congress and other political dignitaries bring guests and family members. But last year, only 200 people attended President Biden's joint address to Congress in April, just as COVID-19 vaccines had started to become widely accessible to most American adults.

This year, all 535 members of Congress were invited to attend the speech, a decision made with the guidance of Brian P. Monahan, Congress' attending physician. Many Republicans have decided to skip the event. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he would not attend because he objected to the requirement that those present would need to take a coronavirus test.

Attendees will not be required to wear masks — a change to Monahan's guidance made in the wake of falling COVID-19 levels in the D.C. area. The White House also recently changed its mask policy, allowing fully vaccinated staff members to go maskless.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.

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