Some Republican lawmakers said they will self-quarantine after discovering they interacted with an individual at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference who later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) first announced his decision to self-quarantine on Sunday, in light of the news. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) followed suit, adding that three of his staff members will also quarantine themselves. It’s unclear how many lawmakers interacted with the individual.
“Last night, I was informed that 10 days ago at CPAC I briefly interacted with an individual who is currently symptomatic and has tested positive for COVID-19,” which is the disease caused by the virus, Cruz said in a statement, adding that the interaction involved a handshake and a “brief conversation.”
The senator said he’s spoken with his personal doctor, and medical officials from the Houston Health Department, the Harris County Public Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, he’s notified Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and incoming acting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
“I’m not experiencing any symptoms, and I feel fine and healthy,” Cruz said. “Given that the interaction was 10 days ago, that the average incubation period is 5-6 days, that the interaction was for less than a minute, and that I have no current symptoms, the medical authorities have advised me that the odds of transmission from the other individual to me were extremely low.”
The senator said that he was told his interaction with the patient does not meet the CDC criteria for self-quarantine, but “out of an abundance of caution, and because of how frequently I interact with my constituents as a part of my job and to give everyone peace of mind, I have decided to remain at my home in Texas this week, until a full 14 days have passed since the CPAC interaction.”
Two more Republicans, Reps. Doug Collins of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, announced Monday that they’ve decided to self-quarantine for 14 days after CPAC organizers said they came in contact with the patient during the conference.
“While I am not experiencing any symptoms, I have decided to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution,” Collins tweeted.
Gaetz, who also said he is not experiencing any symptoms, tweeted that his Washington office will be closed during the quarantine. Last week, he mocked coronavirus fears by wearing a gas mask on the House floor. Two days later, one of his constituents died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Gosar announced after Cruz’s statement that he and three senior staff members “are officially under self-quarantine after sustained contact at CPAC” with the infected individual. Unlike Cruz’s alleged brief interaction, the congressman said he was with the person “for an extended period of time, and we shook hands several times.”
“I am not currently experiencing any symptoms, nor is any member of my staff. However, in order to prevent any potential transmission, I will remain at my home in Arizona until the conclusion of the 14 day period following my interaction with this individual,” Gosar said in a statement. “Additionally, out of an abundance of caution, I am closing my office in Washington, D.C. for the week and my team will follow the previously approved Tele-commute plan.”
The Arizona congressman said he and his staff are in touch with the CDC and the White House, and asked the public to “keep the person in the hospital in your prayers.”
Several media outlets, including The Washington Post and Politico, have reportedly asked employees who covered CPAC to self-quarantine “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Self-quarantine of well individuals who may have been exposed is simply a precautionary measure that helps mitigate spread of the virus and is a step that we will continue moving forward,” according to a memo sent to Politico staffers, reported The Hill.
The individual who tested positive for coronavirus had “no interaction” with President Donald Trump or Pence at CPAC, according to the American Conservative Union, which organized the event.
The ACU said Saturday that the individual’s exposure to the virus occurred before the four-day conference that began Feb. 26. The patient has been quarantined in New Jersey and is reportedly under the care of medical professionals.
During his speech at CPAC, the president gave his administration an “A+++” for its work battling the outbreak — despite the administration facing criticism from health professionals for the lack of available testing kits.
Trump’s outgoing acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney accused journalists in his CPAC speech of hyperbolizing the threat of outbreak because “they think this will bring down the president ― that’s what this is all about.”
“Everyone should continue to treat this outbreak seriously and be driven by facts and medical science,” Cruz said Sunday. “We need to be proactive in mobilizing resources to combat this outbreak ― including the $8.3 billion in emergency funding we provided last week ― and I encourage everyone to follow the recommendations of the CDC and other health professionals in protecting their own health and welfare, as well as the health and welfare of those around them.”
Democratic leadership called on Trump to support steps to help people in the U.S. deal with the outbreak, including paid sick leave, food security, free disease testing, better unemployment insurance, anti-price gouging protections and affordable treatment.
“We are pleased that we passed an emergency response bill on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis that provided a significant increase in resources beyond the administration’s request,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. “However, President Trump continues to manufacture needless chaos within his administration and it is hampering the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.”
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.