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Two congressmen test positive for the coronavirus

  • Author: Colby Itkowitz
    , The Washington Post
  • Updated: March 18, 2020
  • Published March 18, 2020

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams speaks during a news conference announcing he will vote to impeach President Donald Trump Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in Murray, Utah. McAdams said Trump abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and he "cannot turn a blind eye" to his actions. "What the president did was wrong," he said, reading from a statement. McAdams did not take questions. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Two members of Congress said Wednesday they had tested positive for the coronavirus — the first lawmakers to contract the deadly disease — forcing other lawmakers who came into contact with them to announce they were self-quarantining.

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said they began developing symptoms on Saturday evening, less than 24 hours after they had stood on the crowded House floor and voted for the coronavirus relief package.

Shortly after their announcement late Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., who is No. 3 in the GOP leadership, and Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., said they would be self-quarantining for two weeks because they had been in contact with one of the infected congressmen.

Scalise, who was critically wounded in a shooting in Alexandria, Va. during a congressional baseball practice in 2017, said he had had a long meeting with Diaz-Balart last week. Ferguson didn't identify which lawmaker he had been in contact with.

Both Scalise and Ferguson said they had consulted with Congress' attending physician.

That Diaz-Balart and McAdams began feeling sick and tested positive so soon after the House adjourned early Saturday morning raises questions about how contagious they were during their time on Capitol Hill last week.

More than a dozen members of Congress have already proactively self-quarantined after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for covid-19. At least two congressional staffers have tested positive.

The fast-moving developments Wednesday complicates the House's plans to return sometime next week from its recess to vote on the next stimulus package related to the health and economic crisis.

Diaz-Balart, 58, decided to self-quarantine at his Washington apartment rather than return to Florida after the vote because his wife has an illness that makes her high risk if she contracted the disease, his office said.

"I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better. 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. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times," Diaz-Balart said.

McAdams, 45, flew home Saturday after the House voted. On Sunday, not feeling better, he self-quarantined. McAdams developed a fever, dry cough and labored breathing.

"On Tuesday, my doctor instructed me to get tested for covid-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic for the test," he said.

In announcing his illness, McAdams urged his constituents to take the threat seriously and follow health experts guidance.