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Matt Gaetz made light of coronavirus by wearing a gas mask. Now he is in quarantine.

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/10/2020 Kim Bellware
Matt Gaetz wearing a suit and tie: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). © Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).

Days after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wore an enormous gas mask during a House floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, the congressman announced that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after coming into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference participant who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Gaetz said on Twitter that he has not experienced any symptoms but was tested Monday and expects results soon.

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“Under doctor’s usual precautionary recommendations, he’ll remain self-quarantined until the 14-day period expires this week,” his Twitter account announced, hours after Gaetz traveled on Air Force One with President Trump.

Gaetz accompanied Trump from Florida to Washington, according to the White House pool report.

Gaetz attended the conservative conference last month. Other Republican congressmen, Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), who attended the same conference have announced they would self-quarantine even though they weren’t feeling symptoms.

Collins’s announcement comes on the heels of Trump’s visit to Georgia, where the congressman greeted the president with a handshake.

Gaetz said he will close his Washington office while he is in quarantine.

Separately, Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) said in a statement Monday that she would also close her office after she was told that she met with a person last week who is now self-quarantining.

Gaetz announced Saturday that a resident of his district in Santa Rosa County, Fla., had died. His message followed the Florida Department of Health’s announcement late Friday that two residents had died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, pushing the U.S. death toll to 17 as of that night.

In addition to the patient in Santa Rosa, who had recently traveled internationally, the second coronavirus-related death was a Lee County resident in their 70s who had recently traveled abroad.

Doug Collins wearing a suit and hat: Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) greets President Trump as he steps off Air Force One on Friday in Marietta, Ga. (Alex Brandon/AP) Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.) greets President Trump as he steps off Air Force One on Friday in Marietta, Ga. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Florida health officials additionally reported two new presumptive positive coronavirus cases, both in Broward County. One is a 75-year-old male and the other a 65-year-old male, according to the health department. Both are in isolation.

Gaetz said in his statement that the deceased patient from his district had been quarantined shortly after showing symptoms and that no further cases were known in the district at the time.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), one of the most senior House members, rebuked the 37-year-old congressman for his Wednesday display of the over-the-top gas mask.

Rush said via Twitter that Gaetz was “making light of an epidemic that has killed 14 Americans.” He contrasted how the congressman’s behavior went unchecked to his own removal from the House floor in 2012 when he wore a hoodie to protest racial profiling in the wake of the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Gaetz’s office did not provide additional comment Saturday when asked to respond to Rush’s criticism, but cited his Friday statement offering condolences for the deceased patient.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the U.S. surgeon general, urged the public not to wear masks if they aren’t sick, because doing so creates unnecessary panic and reduces the supply for those, like health-care workers, who do need them.


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