The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that — while elected officials, professional athletes, and celebrities might get special treatment with testing — the novel coronavirus doesn't discriminate when it comes to infection. World leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have begun to govern while in quarantine.
As the virus spreads, a growing number of Floridians have taken up working from home, and that includes politicians. Because of the lack of available coronavirus tests nationwide, that number could increase over the coming weeks.
Matt Gaetz made light of coronavirus by wearing a gas mask. Now one of his constituents has died. https://t.co/K95EJn96GK— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 7, 2020
Rep. Matt Gaetz went from mockingly wearing a gas mask on the floor of Congress last week to self-isolating after potentially being exposed to coronavirus at a conference for conservative activists and elected officials. In attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) were various prominent Republican politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence, who had spent much of that week downplaying the risks of the global pandemic. A few days later, Gaetz and others at the conference were informed that an attendee had been confirmed as carrying the novel coronavirus.
As a result, Gaetz and other GOP legislators such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were forced to self-quarantine. Luckily for Gaetz, he had the option of taking paid sick leave — a benefit many Floridians lack thanks to a bill Gaetz backed in 2013. The bill, which was signed into law by former Gov. Rick Scott, blocked cities and counties from passing their own paid sick leave legislation. Gaetz, who said he slept in a Walmart parking lot on his way back to Florida, tested negative for coronavirus a few days ago and is now, presumably, out of quarantine.
Here is my statement regarding my decision to self-quarantine: pic.twitter.com/zKAmOXIB2Q— Mayor Francis Suarez (@MiamiMayor) March 12, 2020
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is, at the time of writing, the first and only major Florida politician to test positive for COVID-19. Thursday, Suarez published a video in which he said he had entered self-quarantine after having contact with a Brazilian official who later was found to be infected. The next day, Suarez confirmed in a statement to New Times he himself had tested positive for the virus.
Suarez was one of many local and national politicians to meet with Bolsonaro during his trip to the States. The mayor said he felt healthy and strong, but he promised to take every precaution to ensure the virus didn't spread.
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My decision today to self-quarantine is out of an abundance of caution.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) March 12, 2020
My priority is the health and safety of all Americans and I will continue working on my plan to combat the virus and protect American families. Read my statement pic.twitter.com/1rVq2SK6RY
Florida Sen. Rick Scott and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez were two other politicians who risked potential infection during Bolsonaro's visit. Both were present at a meeting with a Brazilian delegation in downtown Miami, at which the Brazilian president's communications director, Fabio Wajngarten, also was present. Wajngarten would later reportedly test positive for COVID-19, jeopardizing the health of Scott, Gimenez, and even President Donald Trump, who hosted the delegation at his Mar-a-Lago Club.
Scott and Gimenez went into self-quarantine shortly after receiving the news about Wajngarten. In less than 24 hours, a Gimenez spokesperson announced the county's mayor had tested negative for coronavirus — a stunning turnaround given how long it's taken the general public to be administered tests, never mind receiving test results.
As for Scott, he said in a statement that the U.S. Senate's attending physician did not require that he be tested or self-isolate, but Scott said he would do so out of an abundance of caution.