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Coronavirus: Ted Cruz in self-isolation after shaking hands with man later diagnosed

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WASHINGTON — Two members of U.S. Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Paul Gosar, said Sunday they are isolating themselves after determining they had contact at a political conference with a man who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Cruz, R-Texas, said he had brief contact with the man at the Conservative Political Action Conference nearly two weeks ago and would spend the next few days at his home in Texas until a full 14 days had passed since their interaction.

Gosar, R-Ariz., said he had sustained contact with the man at CPAC and that he and three members of his senior staff were under self-quarantine. His office will be closed for the week, Gosar said in a tweet.

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Besides Cruz and Gosar, the CPAC schedule listed three other senators and 12 House members who were scheduled to speak. They included No. 2 House GOP leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, No. 3 Republican leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming and congressman Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who has since become the White House chief of staff.

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Also on the schedule was Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Both U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence spoke at CPAC, but the White House said there was no indication that either had met or were in “close proximity” to the infected attendee.

Meanwhile, Maryland reported two new cases on Sunday, raising to five the total confirmed cases in the state. Virginia reported its second case.

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In a separate case of coronavirus, a prominent Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., suspended all activities after announcing that one of its senior leaders was the first person in the nation’s capital to test positive for the virus.

The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, was in stable condition after being hospitalized Saturday night, according to a statement from the Rev. Crystal Hardin, the assistant rector.

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In an unrelated case, Cruz said he met the man being treated for coronavirus 10 days ago at CPAC in suburban Oxon Hill, Maryland. The Texas Republican said he’s not experiencing any symptoms, feels fine and has been advised by medical authorities that the odds of transmission were extremely low.

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Yet, Cruz said, out of an abundance of caution he will remain at home in Texas for another few days until a full 14 days have passed since the interaction. He said medical authorities advised him that those who have interacted with him in the last 10 days should not be concerned about potential transmission.

David Popp, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday evening that no changes have been made in the chamber’s schedule in the wake of Cruz’s decision to remain in Texas. McConnell has spoken with Cruz, Popp said.

The Senate has a vote scheduled Monday evening and plans to be in session this week considering energy and possibly other legislation. The Senate and the House are set for a one-week recess the week of March 16.

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According to Christ Church Georgetown website, Cole has been the rector since September 2016, is married and has two children.

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“Out of an abundance of caution, Christ Church has cancelled all activities including church services until further notice. We recommend that concerned community members contact their health care providers,” the statement said.

Officials on Saturday had announced the district’s first positive test, but identified the victim only as a man in his 50s. A second local positive test involves a man who visited the Washington area from Nigeria, but he was being hospitalized in Maryland, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

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Health officials said Sunday said they had determined as part of their investigation that “an individual’s visitation to Christ Church Georgetown warrants precautionary measures” and they recommended a temporary halt to services. In response, the church publicly identified Cole as the victim.

The Washington mayor’s office said a city high school is staying closed Monday, though no new confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported. Three people who stayed at the same house as the Nigerian man who tested positive in Maryland were tested Sunday and all were negative.

But one of them works at School Without Walls High School, which is being kept closed to give staff time to communicate with staff and parents and to clean the school.

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In Maryland, a Harford County resident in her 80s who contracted the virus while travelling overseas was hospitalized, officials said. A Montgomery County resident in his 60s who contracted the virus while travelling overseas was briefly hospitalized.

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Virginia recorded its first case Saturday when a Marine stationed at Fort Belvoir and living at the Quantico base was found to have the virus. On Sunday, Virginia officials announced a second case involving a Fairfax man in his 80s who took a Nile River cruise.

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Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of epidemiology and population health for the Fairfax County health department, said the Fairfax man developed systems of respiratory illness on Feb. 28 and was hospitalized on March 5. He remains hospitalized but is in stable condition and not in an intensive care unit, Schwartz said.

“Fortunately, the individual had limited contact with others while ill, and therefore the risk to the general Fairfax community remains low,” said the county’s health director, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensa.

Virginia state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said testing for the Fort Belvoir case was done at Walter Reed medical centre, and testing for the Fairfax resident was done at a state lab in Richmond.

“The two cases are not related,” Peake said. “At this point, there are no signs of the virus spreading in the community in Virginia.”

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