First member of Congress is positive for the coronavirus — and his explanation is worrying

First member of Congress is positive for the coronavirus — and his explanation is worrying
US House Office of Photography / Public domain

Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart announced on Wednesday that he is the first member of Congress to be diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has triggered a global pandemic.

While other members of the House of Representatives and senators have self-quarantined after coming into contact with infected people, Diaz-Barlart is the first to test positive for the virus, as far as is publicly known.

This development was inevitable; at some point, the virus was bound to reach Congress. But it's a disturbing development because Diaz-Balart was in the House on Friday for votes. He said that he self-quarantined after the votes in Washington, D.C. — his wife in Florida has a pre-existing condition so he wanted to avoid her — but he didn't explain what sparked this decision or why he hadn't been isolated prior to the votes. The next day, according to a statement, he "developed symptoms, including a fever and a headache."

On Wednesday, he was informed he had tested positive for the virus. His office said he will quarantine and work from his D.C. apartment.

"I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better," he said. "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 is 58, and many members of Congress are over age 70. Since he was in the House voting on Friday, and people are potentially contagious before they even develop symptoms, it's quite possible the Florida congressman could have spread the virus to many of his colleagues.


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