Lawmakers face the coronavirus: FL House Speaker orders members out of the chamber; U.S. Rep. Gaetz has self-quarantined

Workers donned in medical-protection gear wipe down desks and seats in the Florida House. Credit: Lloyd Dunkelberger

Update: The five Florida House members who were isolated were allowed to return to the floor shortly before 5 p.m.

Rep. Cary Pigman, who is a physician, said based on the guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the members were “at low risk” for carrying the virus. He said they were not exhibiting any symptoms and that testing was not necessary.
Pigman said that determination was made in consultation with Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.
Here is the earlier report:

Florida House members were ordered off the floor on Monday afternoon after House Speaker Jose Oliva announced several members may have come into contact with individuals infected with the coronavirus while attending conferences in Washington, D.C.

Workers donned in blue coveralls and masks began wiping down the desks and seats for the 120 members shortly before 4 p.m.

Other lawmakers said representatives attended either the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) events in Washington, where other attendees were later confirmed with the viral infection.

The lawmakers included Reps. Anthony Sabatini, Byron Donalds, Cord Byrd, Kionne McGhee and Thad Altman.

Sabatini represents part of Lake County; Donalds, of Hendry and part of Collier County; Byrd, of Nassau and part of Duval County; McGhee, part of Miami-Dade, and Altman, part of Brevard. All are Republicans except for McGhee, the Democrat leader in the House.

Oliva said the House members did not come into “direct contact” with the infected individuals at the conferences. But he said they have been isolated and voluntarily submitted to testing for the virus. He said the results should be available within 24 hours.

“Currently quarantined just off the House floor, awaiting COVID-19 test — can someone please send me a bottle of Bordeaux in the meantime?,” Sabatini said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Senate President Bill Galvano asked one senator who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference to self-quarantine. Galvano did not identify the senator.

It’s not clear if a self-quarantine or a confirmed case of the illness could impact the waning days of the spring legislative session.

And in Congress, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted that “Congressman Gaetz was informed today that he came into contact with a CPAC attendee 11 days ago who tested positive for COVID-1.”

In addition, “While the Congressman is not experiencing symptoms, he received testing today and expects results soon. Under doctor’s usual precautionary recommendations, he’ll remain self-quarantined until the 14-day period expires this week.”

Florida Phoenix reporter Laura Cassels contributed to this report.