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First coronavirus diagnosis among member of Congress sends lawmakers into quarantine

A growing number of lawmakers are sending themselves into quarantine after two of their colleagues revealed they tested positive for the coronavirus, sidelining House members as lawmakers work on additional measures to provide relief to the American people continues.

Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, and Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, announced Wednesday they had been diagnosed with COVID-19 after developing symptoms several days ago.

The lawmakers are the first two confirmed cases among members of Congress and were last in the U.S. Capitol on Friday, when the House voted on a coronavirus relief package

Before Diaz-Balart and McAdams revealed they had tested positive, more than a dozen lawmakers decided to self-quarantine after coming in contact with people who were found to have the coronavirus. Some decided to confine themselves to their homes after learning that an attendee at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference was diagnosed with COVID-19, while others were in contact with constituents, friends, staffers or other individuals.

But within the last 24 hours, the number of lawmakers self-quarantining has nearly doubled as lawmakers were informed of Diaz-Balart's and McAdams' diagnoses.

Among those lawmakers include Republicans on the conference's vote-counting team, including  Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, chief deputy whip Drew Ferguson of Georgia, and deputy whips Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Ann Wagner of Missouri.

Other members of Congress who announced overnight they will be self-quarantining include Democratic Representatives Kathleen Rice of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Matthew Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Frederica Wilson of Florida, Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Anthony Brindisi of New York.

Steve Dickson, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, has also decided to self-quarantine and work from home for seven days after having a "brief interaction" with Diaz-Balart before a congressional hearing last week, the agency said.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends those exposed to the coronavirus quarantine themselves for 14 days from the last date of exposure, leaving lawmakers away from the Capitol until the end of March.

The House is in recess this week, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Thursday that in light of guidance from the CDC, the House schedule would be adjusted.

"It is my intention that the House will not return to session until we are in a position to vote on the third piece of emergency legislation to respond to the economic impact," he said.

The Senate is in session and is working with the White House on the "phase three" package designed to help Americans and businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration has called for gatherings to be restricted to no more than 10 people, and members of the public have been urged to limit their social interactions to stop the number of coronavirus cases from increasing. Republicans and Democrats are calling for House leaders to change the rules and allow for remote voting.

More than 50 lawmakers of both parties signed on to a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy saying the House should "hold itself to the same high standard that it is asking the nation: to put public health and safety first."

"Remote voting is a key part of maintaining continuity of operations," they wrote. "Adopting rules today for the House to allow remote voting, as necessary, will allow every member to continue to vote and represent the concerns of their constituents as we address this crisis."

Hoyer said he shares the concerns of members regarding the number of lawmakers voting on the House floor and said expects "that the House will adjust our voting procedures in order to follow the CDC's recommendations."

"No decisions have been made on exactly what these changes will be, but we will be discussing all options," he said.

In the Senate, Senators Dick Durbin of Illinois and Rob Portman of Ohio introduced a resolution Thursday to change Senate rules and allow senators to vote remotely for up to 30 days during a national crisis.

The proposal has the backing of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee.

"The Senate must do its job to protect the American people from the health and economic impacts of this pandemic. That means we need updated emergency plans including remote Senate voting to ensure that we can pass legislation during any crisis," she said. "As ranking member of the Rules Committee, I commend Senators Durbin and Portman for their work on this proposal, and I will continue working with them to pass their bill to ensure our continuity plans address the reality of new threats."

The U.S. Capitol and surrounding House and Senate office buildings, meanwhile, are closed to the public for the time being.

In the U.S., there are more than 9,000 reported cases of the coronavirus, with cases in all states. The death toll from the illness stands at more than 150.

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