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Baltimore Mayor Scott among less than 1% of vaccinated Marylanders to have breakthrough COVID case. Here’s what we know.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott has tested positive for the coronavirus, his staff said Monday.

The Democratic mayor received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in March, making him among the growing number of fully vaccinated people to experience a “breakthrough” case.

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Scott is isolating at home and doesn’t have any symptoms, his spokesman Cal Harris said. Experts say that while reinfection is possible after being vaccinated, the shots significantly decrease the risk of severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Despite being vaccinated and following Baltimore City’s health protocols, breakthrough infections are a real threat,” Harris said in a statement. “This could have been a different situation if Mayor Scott were not vaccinated.”

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When did the mayor test positive?

Scott is tested for the coronavirus two to three times per week, Harris said. A routine test came back positive Monday, as did a second test. He had previously tested negative for COVID on Friday.

Gigi Gronvall, an immunologist and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said rapid tests like the ones Scott took Monday are “very good” at identifying people who are currently infectious. It’s possible Scott might have tested positive on Friday with a more sensitive test, but that doesn’t mean he was an infectious risk, she said.

How common are breakthrough cases like Scott’s?

According to the Maryland Department of Health, there have been about 20,691 COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated Maryland residents — less than 1% of the 3.5 million residents who have been fully inoculated. Unvaccinated people continue to make up the bulk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in Maryland — about 90%.

The CDC says a certain number of breakthrough cases is “expected,” given that no vaccine is 100% effective at preventing illness. Studies have shown that the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, which the mayor received, is a bit less effective than its two-dose counterparts from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It reduces the chance of COVID-19-related hospitalization by about 71%, according to one study, compared to 88% and 93% reductions from Pfizer and Moderna, respectively. Even if the shots don’t completely stop infection, they’re likely to reduce the risk of severe cases of the virus, the CDC says.

Were others exposed?

Scott appeared at numerous public events over the weekend, including the Parade of Latino Nations in East Baltimore on Sunday that drew an estimated 10,000 people. He was also at the Parity Homes groundbreaking and block party in West Baltimore on Saturday.

Harris said the city is working on contact tracing efforts for those who may have come in contact with the mayor, and members of his staff who attended the events are being tested.

At least four members of Baltimore City Council — Odette Ramos, Mark Conway, Zeke Cohen and Council President Nick Mosby — attended the Sunday parade with the mayor and appeared arm-in-arm in photos with him. Ramos said she is isolating and plans to be tested, Cohen said he tested negative Monday, and Mosby and Conway said they plan to follow Centers for Disease Control guidance.

What do guidelines say for those who may have come in contact with Scott this weekend?

According to the guidelines, anyone who was within 6 feet of the mayor in recent days for a cumulative total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period should quarantine, unless they are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine unless they show symptoms, according to the CDC, but should take a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after their exposure. They should also wear masks while in public places outdoors.

Many of the mayor’s recent public appearances, including the parade he joined Sunday, took place outdoors, a safer option when it comes to reducing COVID-19 transmission rates, according to the CDC. But the agency still recommends masks be worn at crowded outdoor activities in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases. Baltimore City, like much of Maryland and the country, is still considered to have a high transmission rate of COVID-19 with the more contagious delta variant of the virus having taken hold.

Scott has frequently gone beyond state mandates for such things as masking requirements throughout the pandemic. The city currently has an indoor mask mandate, while the state does not.

Is the mayor eligible for a COVID vaccine booster?

Booster shots have not yet been recommended for recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the company is planning to ask federal regulators this week to approve one. The Food and Drug Administration’s expert advisory committee is scheduled to meet Oct. 15 to discuss granting emergency authorization for a J&J booster.

Currently, third booster doses are available for recipients of the Pfizer shots who are over 65 years of age or who are over 18 and live in high-risk communal settings, have underlying medical conditions or work in a high-risk setting like a hospital, school, correctional facility or homeless shelter.

Baltimore Sun reporters Meredith Cohn and Emily Opilo contributed to this article.

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