Rep. Ben McAdams tests positive for coronavirus

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ben McAdams announces that he will vote yes, on the House impeachment vote, during news conference at Murray City Hall, Monday, Dec. 16, 2019.

Washington • Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, says he has tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the second member of Congress to confirm similar results within hours.

“Today I learned that I tested positive,” McAdams said in a statement Wednesday evening. “I am still working for Utahns and pursuing efforts to get Utahns the resources they need as I continue doing my job from home until I know it is safe to end my self-quarantine. I’m doing my part as all Americans are doing to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.”

The House is currently out of session. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said earlier Wednesday he had also tested positive.

McAdams said he had contact with probably a dozen members of the House and his staff is notifying anyone who might have been close to him. (McAdams would have been possibly contagious beginning Thursday, his doctor told him, and no one prior to that should be concerned about contact, the congressman said.)

The House voted around 2 a.m. Saturday morning on a relief package to help those affected by the coronavirus. McAdams voted for the measure.

McAdams said after returning from Washington on Saturday, he developed cold-like symptoms and after consulting with his doctor, isolated himself in his home.

“My symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, a dry cough and labored breathing and I remained self-quarantined,” McAdams said. “On Tuesday, my doctor instructed me to get tested for COVID-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic for the test.”

The test confirmed positive for the virus.

McAdams, who was coughing during an interview Wednesday night, said he felt as if a belt was tightened around his chest. No other members of his family have any symptoms, he said, and they were quarantining themselves for two weeks.

The Utah congressman said he didn’t know how or when he contracted the virus.

“I’m on an airplane two times a week and meet with hundreds of people,” he said. “So there’s no way to know where I got it from that. I think this highlights how important it is to follow all of the CDC guidelines to take this very seriously. I’m young; you know, statistically, I’ll be OK. But, you know, I’m glad that as soon as I was symptomatic, I took every precaution, isolated myself, haven’t put any others at risk by being in social gatherings. And so it’s important for people to know that we wouldn’t take us seriously if we’re going to bend the curve.”

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, walked to votes with McAdams on Saturday morning but had no symptoms. Still, Curtis was taking precautions.

“Rep. Curtis’ physician was very clear that he’s in an extremely low risk category as the type of contact that he had with Rep. McAdams didn’t concern him, in addition to exhibiting no symptoms,” the congressman’s spokeswoman Ally Riding said. “Congressman Curtis will continue the standard social distancing but no self-quarantine at this time.”

Rep. Chris Stewart is “healthy and feeling good,” his spokeswoman Madison Shupe said.

Sen. Mitt Romney said earlier this week he and his family have not had any symptoms. His office confirmed Wednesday night he feels fine. Sen. Mike Lee’s office said the senator is doing well.

Romney wished McAdams well on Twitter, noting, McAdams “work from his bed at home on behalf of his district, state and country is laudable, selfless and greatly appreciated.”

The news that two members of Congress have been infected with the virus could send a shock to Washington, already dealing with efforts to help Americans impacted by the outbreak and an economy seeing signs of a recession.

While efforts have been taken to contain the spread of the virus in the Capitol — such as restricting access to members of Congress, essential staff and reporters — the building still houses thousands of people on a daily basis.

“I was in the Capitol last week,” says Doug Heye, a former deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and now a CNN contributor. “In practically every meeting, everyone acknowledged that they should not shake hands after doing just that. Despite best intentions and precautions — and hand sanitizer everywhere — the Capitol buildings are often crowded, with hallways clogged and legislative chambers designed for interaction.”

Two members testing positive could just be the start, Heye said. “This means that members and staff testing positive for Coronavirus not only isn’t a surprise, but that the numbers of those who are positive should increase,” he said.