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U.S. Senate staffer tests positive for coronavirus

The senator has closed her D.C. office in response

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

As lawmakers and the administration work to address the ongoing global spread of the coronavirus, the first known case of the disease on Capitol Hill was reported on Wednesday night.

A statement from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) says that one of her staffers has tested positive for the virus — formally known as COVID-19.

The statement says that the staffer "has been in isolation since starting to show symptoms" and that the senator will close her Washington, D.C. office this week for "deep cleaning" while the rest of her staff works from home. It also says that the staffer in question "has had no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress."

Cantwell is also requesting virus testing be conducted "on any other staffers who have been in contact with the individual and show symptoms."

The announcement came on the same day that congressional leaders agreed to restrict capitol tours until the end of March due to concerns about the virus' spread, according to multiple outlets. Politico reported Wednesday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "informed members of the decision in a Wednesday afternoon meeting, which is intended to help prevent the spread of the virus across the sprawling Capitol campus, where many senior-aged lawmakers are already at higher risk." The moratorium is expected to last until the end of March and will affect public, member-led, and staff-led tours, the report added. The Hill reported that a formal announcement on the matter could come as soon as Friday.

There are no reports of members of Congress having tested positive for the coronavirus so far, though multiple have recently opted to isolate out of caution after being exposed to people who have. Those include Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Meanwhile, local officials are also trying to address the emergence of the virus in the nation's capital. On Wednesday afternoon, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a state of emergency over the virus, effective immediately. Earlier that day, the District's health department recommended that all non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or cancelled" and that "any social, cultural, or entertainment events where large crowds are anticipated be reconsidered by the organizer" until the end of the month.

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