Congressional staffer tests positive for coronavirus

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The rising sun divides the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday morning, Sept. 25, 2019, the day after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared she will launch a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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An employee in Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the first publicly known case of a congressional staffer with the disease.

A statement from Cantwell’s offices said the staffer had no known contact with the Washington state Democrat or other members of Congress.

“The individual has been in isolation since starting to have symptoms. On the advice of the Attending Physician, the senator has closed her Washington, D.C. office this week for deep cleaning and staff will be teleworking,” the statement said.

Cantwell requested that other staffers who may have been in contact with the individual or who show symptoms be tested, according to the statement.

While the case marks the first publicly known instance of a congressional staffer with the virus, seven other members of Congress have taken steps to isolate themselves amid the outbreak as a precaution.

Five Republican lawmakers — Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Doug Collins of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Mark Meadows of North Carolina — are self-quarantining after interacting with an individual at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Two Democrats are also taking precautionary measures. Rep. Julia Brownley of California announced on Monday that she and her staff are working remotely after finding out that she recently came into contact with someone who tested positive. On Tuesday, Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia announced that he will self-quarantine after learning that a friend he interacted with recently tested positive.

In a rare Oval Office address Wednesday night, President Donald Trump said he was “marshaling the full power of the federal government” to confront the growing public health crisis, including sharply restricting travel to the United States from more than two dozen European countries.

The address came the same day the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. There are 118,000 cases globally and more than 4,000 deaths, the agency said, and the virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.

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