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Meadows, Other Members Of Congress Self-Quarantine After CPAC Coronavirus Exposure

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., seated left center, talks Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., during a House Judiciary Committee markup in December. On Monday, both Gaetz and Collins said they were imposing self-quarantines after coming in contact with someone infected with coronavirus.
Andrew Harnik
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., seated left center, talks Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., during a House Judiciary Committee markup in December. On Monday, both Gaetz and Collins said they were imposing self-quarantines after coming in contact with someone infected with coronavirus.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET Tuesday

Reps. Mark Meadows, Doug Collins, and Matt Gaetz said Monday that they are self-quarantining after learning they came in contact with a person infected with coronavirus while attending a conservative conference in the Washington area last month.

Rep. Mark Meadows, who is the incoming White House chief of staff, is one of several members who attended last month's Conservative Political Action Conference. At least one attendee has tested positive for coronavirus. Meadows says he has no symptoms and tested negative. But, his spokesperson said, "out of an abundance of caution ... he'll remain at home until the 14 day period expires this Wednesday."

That brings the number of congressional lawmakers who are self-quarantining over coronavirus concerns to six.

Both Collins and Gaetz have been in close contact with Trump in recent days. Reporters traveling with the president saw Gaetz board Air Force One on Monday.

Neither have reported any symptoms, but said their decisions to self-quarantine were also taken out of an abundance of caution.

On Tuesday, Gaetz said he had tested negative for coronavirus.

"I will remain under self-quarantine at the advice of medical professionals," Gaetz said on Twitter.

Collins, R-Ga., ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter that he was notified by officials from CPAC that they discovered a photo of him with someone who had tested positive for coronavirus.

"While I feel completely healthy and I am not experiencing any symptoms, I have decided to self-quarantine at my home for the remainder of the 14-day period out of an abundance of caution," Collins said.

Gaetz, R-Fla., said his decision to self-quarantine came after the same realization: that he came in contact with a CPAC attendee 11 days ago who tested positive for coronavirus.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Rep Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who also attended CPAC, announced that they were taking the same step.

All five representatives are planning on 14-day quarantines on the recommendation of the Capitol's Office of Attending Physician.

According to the office, the unidentified individual is from New Jersey and was ill during CPAC, which ran from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29. The person was hospitalized and his symptoms worsened when he returned to New Jersey.

The patient was able to recall names of people he had been in contact with at CPAC, including the four members of Congress who have announced self-quarantines, according to the office.

The risk of becoming infected for the members of Congress remains low, the office said.

Before announcing his quarantine, Gaetz was aboard Air Force One with Trump earlier Monday.

Reporters traveling with the president saw Gaetz boarding the president's plane via the front steps.

In a press briefing on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said he did not know whether Trump was tested for the coronavirus, but the White House later clarified that he has not.

"The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms," White House Spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. "President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him."

Last week, Gaetz was seen wearing a biohazard gas mask on Capitol Hill, a move criticized as a publicity stunt. Gaetz defended the decision as a way of demonstrating his concern.

Rep. Louie Gohmert says he also learned over the weekend that he had potentially been exposed to the virus at CPAC, but will not self-quarantine. He said the House physician referred him to a top physician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who cleared him to return to Washington. "I took the advice of the expert and returned to work," he tweeted.

Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, says he is also under self-quarantine after interacting with the infected person at CPAC. Schlapp introduced President Trump and shook his hand at the conference on Feb. 29 before the president delivered remarks.

"The president of the United States, as we all know, is quite a hand washer," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News. "He uses hand sanitizer all the time. So he's not concerned about this at all."

Another member of Congress, Julia Brownley, D-Calif., said on Monday that she, too, is self-quarantining upon learning that a person she spoke to in Washington last week tested positive for coronavirus.

"Out of an abundance of absolute caution, my DC staff and I are self-monitoring and maintaining social distancing practices. Neither I, nor my staff, are experiencing any symptoms at this time," Brownley said in a statement.

The coronavirus outbreak is also causing members of Congress to cancel events. For instance, Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif., announced he has cancelled a planned town hall next week and will hold a coronavirus telephone town hall instead.

At a meeting on Monday with congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reportedly asked about the prospect of lawmakers voting remotely, but Pelosi shot down the idea.

"We're here, and we're working," said Pelosi, according to a source in the meeting.

There are no plans to change the congressional schedule, the source said.

The outbreak, which has spread to more than 100 counties, has so far claimed the lives of more than two dozen Americans and roiled financial markets.

The Trump administration has summoned Wall Street executives to the White House for a meeting on Wednesday about the impacts of coronavirus on the economy, a person familiar with the meeting confirmed.

The meeting comes after the Dow plunged more than 2,000 points on Monday, its most dramatic drop since the financial crisis of 2008.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.