Senate staffer tests positive for COVID-19, first coronavirus case on Hill

  12 March 2020    Read: 1210
Senate staffer tests positive for COVID-19, first coronavirus case on Hill @RollColl

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's office said Wednesday a D.C.-based staffer has tested positive for COVID-19. It's the first known case on Capitol Hill.

"The individual has been in isolation since starting to have symptoms," according to a release from Cantwell's office. "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 Washington Democrat's office said Wednesday night the staffer who tested positive has "no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress."

Cantwell has requested that other staffers who may have been in contact with the infected employee also be tested.

Lawmakers and staff have made efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, or the introduction of the resulting illness, to the Capitol Hill community. The Office of the Attending Physician and other health and safety leaders have urged a regimen of disinfection and a transition to social distancing.

Washington State has become an epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic within the U.S., and the state's lawmakers have been especially vocal about the urgency for Congress to address the growing emergency.

The revelation came after President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions on some people coming from Europe and said he would take steps to provide financial relief for quarantined workers forced to stay home from work.

Trump said he'd allow deferred tax payments for "certain individuals and businesses" to inject a temporary infusion of $200 billion into the economy, and urged Congress to expand small business loan authority by an additional $50 billion.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic Wednesday, as top U.S. public health officials warned lawmakers the virus' spread will worsen in the coming weeks and called for aggressive mitigation.

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