Members of Congress self-quarantine after interacting with person who had coronavirus at CPAC

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also attended the annual conservative political conference

By Igor Derysh

Deputy Politics Editor

Published March 9, 2020 11:08AM (EDT)

Ted Cruz (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Ted Cruz (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., will self-quarantine after meeting with an individual who tested positive for the coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which was also attended by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

An attendee with coronavirus interacted with "several" members of Congress at the annual event and some of the members have chosen to self-quarantine, according to a message from the Congress' Office of Attending Physician obtained by CNN. The office did not identify the members, but Cruz and Gosar said in public statements that they chose to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution despite not displaying symptoms.

Trump was photographed shaking hands with Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes the conference. Schlapp confirmed he was in direct contact with the individual who tested positive.

The photo contributed to a "growing sense of concern and uncertainty" at the White House, The Washington Post reported. "Concerns for the president's personal health have also escalated as the death toll from the virus has risen, with most of the victims being senior citizens. Trump's personal doctor, Sean Conley, now attends some White House meetings on the coronavirus, tracking where new cases are being reported."

The report added that people with flu-like symptoms have been warned not to enter the White House, because "they may infect the leader of the free world."

"Changes to Trump's travel schedule are also being contemplated, after public health officials warned that elderly Americans should reconsider flying on airplanes and avoid large crowds," the report said, adding that Trump is still eager to hold more campaign rallies.

But the ACU said that there is no evidence that Trump or Pence interacted with the person who tested positive for coronavirus.

Cruz said in a statement that he "briefly interacted" with the person 10 days earlier at CPAC.

"I'm not experiencing any symptoms, and I feel fine and healthy. 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 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," Cruz said. "Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution . . . I have decided to remain at my Texas home this week, until the full 14 days have passed since the CPAC interaction."

Gosar said that he, too, was exposed to what he described as the "Wuhan Virus" on Twitter. The congressman said that he and members of his staff met with the individual "for an extended period of time" and "shook hands several times."

"I am not currently experiencing any symptoms, nor is any member of my staff," he said in a statement. "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."

The statements came one day after the ACU announced that one of its attendees tested positive. Congress' Office of Attending Physician said in a message to lawmakers that the individual identified the members of Congress they interacted with and the members of Congress were evaluated.

"The specific recommendations given to each were based upon their individual risk exposure which was determined through a medically-confidential dialogue between the person and the public health officer. Some of these identified individuals elected to observe a management strategy characterized as 'an abundance of caution' and self-imposed a 14-day quarantine period," the message said, according to CNN. "The Office of Attending Physician supported this overall prudent individual choice by the members due to the unique requirements of members of Congress and their travel, professional work and frequent interaction with members of the public. The Office of Attending Physician is monitoring the health of these individuals, and at this time, 11 days post exposure, they remain in good health."

The ACU said that the person who tested positive is "doing better" and "at this point, no other CPAC attendee, participant or staff has tested positive for coronavirus."

The news came as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. rose to at least 565, though testing has been delayed across the country and experts estimate there are likely hundreds of other cases. There have been 22 deaths from the coronavirus reported in the U.S.

Members of Congress are growing "increasingly anxious," NBC News reported. Lawmakers planned to raise concerns to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during a weekly leadership meeting Monday and will discuss whether to keep the House in session or send members home.

Many members "are concerned," a source told NBC News, "particularly older members and a number who have conditions that make them more susceptible."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Brief Coronavirus Cpac Donald Trump Health Matt Schlapp Mike Pence Paul Gosar Politics Ted Cruz