More members of Congress said they are self-quarantining after two U.S. House members announced that they’d tested positive for the coronavirus.
As the government tries to mitigate the virus’s spread and soften the economic fallout, Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican, announced Thursday that he would self-quarantine after learning that "my friend Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart has tested positive."
Rep. Kathleen Rice, a New York Democrat, announced late Wednesday that she would self quarantine “out of an abundance of caution” after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus.
Cole and Rice join several other members of Congress who are already in self-quarantine, raising questions about whether absences will complicate efforts to pass the next round of fiscal stimulus that is already being negotiated. The Senate is in Washington, and the House was scheduled to be back in session next week.
Two lawmakers announced Wednesday that they had tested positive for the virus. Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, developed symptoms over the weekend and has been working from an apartment in Washington while in quarantine, according to a statement from his office. A short time later, Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, said that he, too, had tested positive.
Federal Aviation Administrator Steve Dickson announced Thursday morning that he would self-quarantine after coming into contact with Diaz-Balart before a March 11 hearing.
McAdams said in a remote interview with NBC Thursday that he initially didn’t qualify for testing until his symptoms worsened. He eventually had a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.4 degrees Celsius), his lungs were constricted and he couldn’t breathe deeply, he said.
“Anyone who had close contact with me from Friday onward should be concerned,” McAdams said, adding that he believes the House should consider changing its rules so members can vote remotely.
Diaz-Balart, 58, began to feel ill with a fever and a headache after the House voted Saturday on a package of measures to respond to the spreading virus, which has brought the economy almost to a halt.
“I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better,” Diaz-Balart said in a statement. “However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus.”
Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the chamber’s Republican whip, said on Wednesday night that he quarantined himself after learning that Diaz-Balart had tested positive. Scalise, who recovered after being shot in the hip at a congressional baseball practice in 2017, said he did not have any symptoms.
Two Colorado lawmakers — Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, and Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat — announced Tuesday that they were taking the action after coming in contact with constituents who later tested positive for COVID-19.
Republican Reps. Drew Ferguson of Georgia and Ann Wagner of Missouri and Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, also they were in self-quarantine after being contacted by Congress’s Office of the Attending Physician.
The attending physician used the calendars of members who tested positive to review other staff and lawmaker exposures “during the pre-symptomatic period of March 13th,” according to a statement from the office. The statement didn’t indicate how many lawmakers received the recommendation to self-quarantine.
“It reflects the pace of the COVID-19 disease throughout the United States and its presence here in Washington, D.C., that it has touched the community of the U.S. Capitol,” the physician’s office said.
Crow said on Twitter that he had no symptoms but he was self-quarantining after he “learned that I came into contact with a constituent on March 11th who later tested positive for coronavirus.” Gardner said in a tweet he was asymptomatic but was self-quarantining after meeting with a constituent in his Washington office.
Diaz-Balart, who lives in Miami, was first elected to the House in 2002, and before that served in the Florida Legislature. He didn’t return to Florida following the House vote Saturday because his wife, Tia, has pre-existing conditions that put her at “exceptionally high risk,” his office said.
McAdams, 45, a former mayor of Salt Lake City who was elected to Congress in 2018, said in a statement that he “developed mild, cold-like symptoms” on Sunday after returning from Washington. He then came down with a fever and his breathing became labored.
“Today, I learned that I tested positive,” he said, adding that he remains in quarantine and is working by phone.
The Senate Wednesday approved the bill the House passed Saturday, and President Donald Trump signed it into law. It includes paid sick leave, food assistance for vulnerable populations and financial help for coronavirus testing. It’s the second spending bill related to the virus and Congress is already at work on the third bill, which is estimated to cost $1.3 trillion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate won’t adjourn until they vote on the third spending bill, telling senators to stay “close” as the body is “moving rapidly because the situation demands it.”
On Monday, some members of the House Democratic Caucus urged their party leaders to consider remote voting during the crisis, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed that, according to multiple persons on that call. Instead, party leaders are considering letting members vote in smaller, staggered groups on the House floor.
Several congressional staffers also have tested positive for the virus.
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