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Rep. Velázquez diagnosed with ‘presumed coronavirus infection’ just days after House vote

New York Democrat also attended signing ceremony with top leaders

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez announced Monday that she has been diagnosed with a “presumed coronavirus infection,” just three days after the New York Democrat joined scores of House lawmakers for a vote on the $2 trillion stimulus package and a signing ceremony with top leaders.

Velázquez said she first started feeling sick “in the wee hours of Sunday morning.”

“I developed the abrupt onset of muscle aches, fevers, nasal congestion and stomach upset. I noticed that I could no longer smell my perfume or taste my food. After speaking with The Attending Physician by phone, I was diagnosed with presumed coronavirus infection,” she said in a statement.

Velázquez was one of the more than 200 House lawmakers who rushed back to Washington to vote on the coronavirus package after Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie said he planned to try to force a recorded vote on the bill. A quorum of more than 216 members convened in the House chamber to defeat Massie’s opposition and pass the bill.

[Planes, pains and automobiles: How half the House made it to the stimulus vote]

After the vote, Velázquez joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others for a signing ceremony. While lawmakers made a show of spreading out during the speeches and photos, Velázquez had a conversation with Pelosi and California Democrat Maxine Waters after the signing.

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Velázquez, 67, is in the age group that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates as high-risk and recommends against traveling during the pandemic. According to the CDC, “older adults” and those with “serious chronic medical conditions” such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at a higher risk of a serious COVID-19 illness. Congress has 194 members who are 65 years or older, which, according to the World Health Organization, is the generally agreed-upon age in the developed world for people considered older or elderly.

Friday’s signing ceremony featured several lawmakers in the CDC’s high-risk bracket, including Pelosi, who turned 80 last week, Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, 79, Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, 77, Oregon Democrat Peter A. DeFazio, 72, and Waters, 81.

Joining Velázquez at the vote Friday were several other Democrats who represent parts of New York City, despite guidelines that recommended a self-quarantine of 14 days for anyone leaving that area, a hot spot for spread of the virus. CQ Roll Call spotted Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Hakeem Jeffries, Adriano Espaillat, Yvette D. Clarke, Gregory W. Meeks and Grace Meng.

House doorkeepers opened the visitor galleries for lawmakers to spread out seating, and members wiped down microphones and podiums with disinfectant. While lawmakers took social distancing measures during Friday’s session, having more than 200 people together bucked recommendations from health officials.

Velázquez spoke on the House floor in favor of the legislation, touting the small-business provisions in the bill that she fought for as chairwoman of the Small Business Committee.

“Every segment of the small-business sector is suffering immeasurably. Whether it’s Brooklyn, New York, or Brooklyn, Wisconsin, small businesses are the heart of America’s main streets. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are now facing impossible decisions about their future,” she said.

Velázquez said Monday that she is now quarantined at home in New York and that she has not been officially tested for the coronavirus.

“My symptoms are mild at the present time and I am taking Tylenol for fever, and isolating myself at my home. At the advice of The Attending Physician, neither COVID 19 laboratory testing nor a doctor’s office visit was recommended. I am carefully monitoring my symptoms, working remotely and in constant contact with my staff,” she said in her statement.

[Fifth lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus]

Velázquez joins a growing list of lawmakers who have been personally infected or affected by the virus.

Reps. Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat, and Mike Kelly, a Pennsylvania Republican, announced Friday that they had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah and Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart have also announced positive diagnoses.

Meanwhile, two congressional candidates in New York City have tested positive for the virus.

In the 15th District, City Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Democrat, announced his diagnosis on March 17. He is running to succeed retiring Democratic Rep. José E. Serrano. 

And on Monday, Suraj Patel, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney in the 12th District primary, announced that he had tested positive. He wrote in a Medium post that his symptoms of fever, shortness of breath and body aches have recently subsided. Patel, an adjunct professor who worked for former President Barack Obama’s advance team, unsuccessfully challenged Maloney in 2018. 

Lindsey McPherson, Chris Cioffi and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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