GOP Lawmakers Panicking After Several People They Shook Hands With Test Positive For Coronavirus
Anxiety is mounting on Republican congressional leaders after several GOP lawmakers appearing at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) events in Washington, D.C., interacted with individuals who have since tested positive for the highly contagious virus.
Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said over the weekend they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person at CPAC who had tested positive.
Gosar, a dentist, said both he and his staff came in contact with the individual. The congressman said he would shut down his Washington office this week and follow Congress’s “tele-commute plan.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican, opted to skip a leadership retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland over the weekend, with a spokesperson citing a need to protect “people in our families who are particularly vulnerable,” Politico reported.
As of Monday morning, more than 500 patients in the United States had been diagnosed with the virus across 34 states, according to a tally being kept by The New York Times.
Senate and House lawmakers were expected to travel back to Washington, with votes still scheduled for Monday afternoon and evening. And lawmakers across the country were boarding planes Monday morning to return to the nation’s capital, including those from coronavirus hot-spots like Seattle.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Capitol Police assured the lawmakers that the Capitol is well-secure, while the message from the Capitol physician’s office largely related to simple precautions related to personal hygiene, like washing hands and sneezing into tissues. Around the Capitol, illustrated signs have popped up in the bathrooms instructing visitors on proper hand-washing procedures.
“It’s not about testing everybody who comes into the building. That’s not realistic,” Pelosi said last Thursday. “But it is also, hopefully, that the message that goes out more globally is that people will be more responsible about their own preventative measures.”
She added: “Some of that sounds very basic and mundane, but it does prevent the spread.”
House Democratic leaders are expected to huddle Monday afternoon, ahead of the evening’s votes, where the coronavirus issue will almost certainly be front and center. Meanwhile, leadership offices are reaching out to members to encourage preparations in the event the Capitol is closed down.