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Nebraska Republican tests positive for COVID-19 in latest congressional breakthrough case

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, becoming the latest congressional lawmaker to announce a breakthrough case.

The congressman said he is experiencing a moderate coronavirus case and will as a result vote by proxy this week.

“Though I have been vaccinated and took every precaution to avoid infection, I have contracted a moderate case of COVID-19,” Fortenberry wrote in a statement. “Per House protocol, I will be recuperating and working from home, and will vote by proxy. As always, my excellent team is ready and available to serve the needs of all Nebraskans.”

Congressional lawmakers have reported at least 50 breakthrough cases of COVID-19 since last summer, more than half of them contracted since mid-December.

Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) announced a positive test on Saturday, and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) revealed that she came down with the virus on Monday.

Capitol physician Brian Monahan revealed earlier this month that among members, the seven-day average positivity rate had risen from less than 1 percent to greater than 13 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that while COVID-19 breakthrough cases are “expected,” fully vaccinated individuals who test positive for the virus are less likely to develop severe illness compared to those who have not received the jab.

Fortenberry’s positive case comes as the U.S. is currently seeing a spike in infections nationwide, driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Deaths, however, have remained at rates lower than previous waves of the pandemic.

Early data suggests that the infection from the omicron variant may be less severe than other strains of the virus.

Fortenberry made headlines earlier this month when a federal judge denied his bid to dismiss charges he is facing for allegedly lying to authorities about illicit campaign contributions. The congressman was indicted in October after being accused of hiding information and making false statements to authorities regarding illegal campaign contributions passed into the U.S. from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury.

Authorities allege that a California group passed $30,000 from Chagoury to Fortenberry’s 2016 campaign.

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