Amid COVID rise in Washington, White House celebrates Judge Jackson confirmation

    By Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The White House celebrates the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court on Friday in an outdoor event with lawmakers and court members as coronavirus cases among Washingtons political class rise.

    Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday in a milestone for the United States and a victory for President Joe Biden, who made good on a campaign promise to nominate an African American woman to the post as he seeks to infuse the federal judiciary with a broader range of backgrounds.

    Black women are a key Democratic constituency and helped propel Biden to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 with a win in the South Carolina primary.

    Biden is suffering in opinion polls, thanks in part to high inflation and concerns about the pandemic, and Jacksons confirmation could be a needed jolt to excite Black voters and other left-leaning constituents ahead of the November midterm elections, when Democrats risk losing control of one or both houses of Congress.

    Biden and Jackson will deliver remarks at 12:15 pm ET (1615 GMT) on the White House South Lawn.

    The White House said it had invited Jackson’s family, current and former justices of the Supreme Court, members of Bidens cabinet, U.S. senators who voted to confirm Jackson, Democratic House leaders, labor leaders and advocacy groups.

    The outdoor venue was chosen in part as a nod to COVID-19 safety, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said, amid a rise in cases of the highly infectious disease in the region and a raft of top Democrats in Bidens inner circle contracting the virus.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tested positive on Thursday morning, after appearing with Biden at crowded indoor events on Tuesday and Wednesday. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo and House Democrat Adam Schiff also got positive results back in recent days.

    The White House has emphasized it is taking measures to protect Biden from catching the disease, while appearing to prepare for the possibility that he does.

    It is possible he will test positive for COVID at some point, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said on CNN, noting the availability of antiviral pills and vaccines. We have treatments. So people are out living their lives and certainly the president of the United States is doing that.

    Biden, 79, tested negative following his interaction with Pelosi, which the White House stressed should not be considered contact. According to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a close contact means 15 minutes within 6 feet of an infected individual in a 24 hour period.

    The decision to hold the event outside comes after former President Donald Trumps nomination ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 became infamous as a coronavirus super spreader event, striking many top Republicans who attended.

    (Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Richard Pullin and Andrea Ricci)