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Florida Republican becomes first lawmaker to test positive for coronavirus

Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) announced Wednesday he tested positive for COVID-19 after developing symptoms Saturday.

He is the first member of Congress to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Shortly after his announcement another House member, Rep. Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), 45, announced he had also tested positive for the virus.

Diaz-Balart, 58, has been in self-quarantine in his Washington, D.C., apartment since Friday.

“On Saturday evening, Congressman Diaz-Balart developed symptoms, including a fever and a headache.  Just a short while ago, he was notified that he has tested positive for COVID-19,” read a statement released by his office.

According to the statement, Diaz-Balart did not return to Florida “out of an abundance of caution.”

Diaz-Balart’s wife, Tia, is a cancer and chronic lung disease survivor, both “conditions that put her at exceptionally high risk.”

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

Several other lawmakers, including Reps. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) said they would self-quarantine after receiving the news.

“I have just been informed that my colleague, Mario Diaz-Balart, tested positive for COVID-19. Since I had an extended meeting with him late last week, out of an abundance of caution, I have decided it would be best to self-quarantine based on the guidance of the Attending Physician of the United States Congress,” Scalise said.

Both Scalise and Ferguson said they were showing no symptoms and would continue to work from home. 

 

Although Diaz-Balart is the first lawmaker to test positive, several have previously self-isolated and undergone testing after possible exposure to the virus, including multiple Republicans who were present at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where they interacted with a person who later tested positive.

These lawmakers included Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), and Paul Gosar (R-Az.), as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). President Trump also tested negative for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Az.) announced Wednesday that she will suspend advertising and canvassing for her re-election bid amid the pandemic.

“Members of Congress and candidates around the country should join me in this call for a national moratorium on ‘us vs. them.’ We need social distancing from our usual corners, and we need to look at each other as fellow Americans and with a servant’s heart, not with a politically jaundiced eye,”  she said in a statement Wednesday.

Concerns over the spread of the virus have proliferated in the Capitol, where the close quarters and advanced age and travel schedules of many lawmakers mean members of Congress could be especially susceptible to the disease.

That prompted the House to delay its return from recess, which was set for Monday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has encouraged social distancing and has lengthened votes from 15 to 30 minutes to allow fewer people at a time to be in the chamber, but said he opposed the idea of allowing remote voting.

“We’ll not be doing that. There are a number of different ways to avoid getting too many people together,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.

Updated at 8:47 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Doug Collins Drew Ferguson Mario Diaz-Balart Martha McSally Matt Gaetz Mitch McConnell Paul Gosar Steve Scalise Ted Cruz

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