• AOC’s maskless photos were published before the new year
  • The 'Squad' member is an advocate of masking and Covid restrictions in New York
  • Florida’s positivity rate climbed to 26.5% from 2.6% in the week Ocasio-Cortez’s photos emerged
  • The Dem congresswoman at least the fourth among fully vaccinated House members to get Covid

Firebrand progressive and 'Squad' member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who was photographed partying in Florida without a mask, has tested positive for COVID-19, her office said Sunday. Hers is at least the fourth breakthrough case among vaccinated and boosted congress members.

In a statement, Ocasio-Cortez’s office said the Democratic lawmaker “is experiencing symptoms and recovering at home.” The office added that Ocasio-Cortez received her booster “this Fall.” The congresswoman is the latest in a string of vaccinated House members who contracted the virus amid a surge in Omicron-driven COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

A maskless Ocasio-Cortez was photographed drinking cocktails with boyfriend Riley Roberts more than a week before Sunday's announcement. In the photos, the lawmaker, who is an advocate of mask-wearing and has criticized Florida repeatedly for its lack of pandemic restrictions, can be seen hoisting a cocktail as she smiles, outside the Doraku Izakaya and Sushi restaurant in Miami Beach. The photos were first published by the National Review on Thursday, Dec. 30.

The photos came in for criticism from social media users who noted that AOC was taking advantage of the freedom to remain maskless in Florida, which is under a Republican governor, while the same liberty is not available to those living in New York, which is ruled by Democrats.

Shortly after the photos emerged, the staff of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tweeted from their official Twitter handle Team DeSantis: “Welcome to Florida, AOC! We hope you’re enjoying a taste of freedom here in the Sunshine State thanks to @RonDeSantisFL’s leadership.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded the next day, asking if the Republican Florida governor has been “inexplicably missing for like 2 weeks,” adding that DeSantis’ social media team appears to have posted “old photos for weeks.” She was trying to get even by alluding to rumors that DeSantis had been missing amid the Covid surge. DeSantis' office clarified that he was with his wife who was undergoing cancer treatment.

Last month, DeSantis signed a bill that seeks to protect private employers from enforcing federal vaccine mandates. The governor’s office said at the time that the legislation “signed today is the strongest pro-freedom, anti-mandate action taken by any state in the nation.”

On the day Ocasio-Cortez’s maskless photos were publicized, Florida reported a new average daily record of 42,600 COVID-19 cases from Dec. 24-30. The state also reported a positivity rate of 26.5% during the said period, significantly up from the 2.6% rate it logged when it confirmed its first Omicron case, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The breakthrough cases among lawmakers come at a time when the United States battles a surge in coronavirus infections. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed Sunday that the seven-day case average in the U.S. topped 700,000 for the first time.

One day before Ocasio-Cortez’s team announced the congresswoman’s positive test results, three House members said they had been infected. Rep. Jim Cooper, R-Tenn., Rep. Sean Casten, D-Ill., and Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., confirmed their positive test results, The Hill reported. All of them were fully vaccinated and have received their booster shots.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the darling of the US progressive left, entered the gaming world of livestreaming platform Twitch to reach out to young voters