Politician Who Joked About Coronavirus Now In Quarantine After Possible Exposure
A politician who joked that young people could kill coronavirus by partying and drinking alcohol, and who wore a gas mask into Congress, has placed himself in virus quarantine.
Matt Gaetz, a Republican member of Congress from Florida, announced on Tuesday he had placed himself into self-quarantine after coming into contact with someone who had coronavirus at the CPAC political conference last week.
Gaetz is one of a number of American politicians -- including former presidential candidate Ted Cruz -- who have self-quarantined after they came into contact with the person at CPAC.
It comes just days after Gaetz sparked widespread outrage for a pair of incidents that some took as him joking about coronavirus.
Speaking to TMZ, Gaetz was asked about whether young college students should still travel to Florida for upcoming spring break vacations, considering warnings about coronavirus spreading in large gatherings of people.
"In my experience, the things that you consume on spring break will typically kill the coronavirus," Gaetz joked.
At the time, he was wearing a full-face gas mask, which he had just worn onto the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on a coronavirus emergency response package.
He later claimed the mask was not a joke, calling it "medically necessary", claiming that politicians were "human petri dishes" on account of the amount of people they meet.
On Tuesday, he said that he had "expected COVID-19 to impact Congress, given the elevated frequency of travel and human contact, and demonstrated his concern last week on the House Floor."
Gaetz wore the mask just two days before a person from his congressional district reportedly died as a result of coronavirus.
He said he has not experienced any symptoms of the virus, but is quarantining out of caution. However, this story has a far more serious element -- with Gaetz and other CPAC attendees meeting and flying with President Donald Trump on Air Force One on Monday.
Gaetz reportedly discovered he met the CPAC coronavirus attendee after boarding the President's plane, after he had been a passenger in Trump's personal limousine.
A Washington Post journalist reported that Gaetz had isolated himself in the plane after being told that fact, but that Trump had "coaxed" him into "the same space".
Gaetz also told the journalist he had been with Trump for "the last three days", and had shaken his hand.
Another Republican politician, Doug Collins, has also placed himself into quarantine after CPAC. Video emerged on Tuesday that he had shaken hands with Trump.
At a press conference just hours after Gaetz announced his quarantine, Trump left without answering questions about whether he himself had been tested for coronavirus following his contact with those who are now in quarantine.
Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump has appointed to lead the American coronavirus response, said that he didn't know if Trump had been tested.
The development comes the same day Vanity Fair magazine reported that -- according to White House aides -- Trump had voiced his fears that a journalist would intentionally contract coronavirus and attempt to pass it on to him on Air Force One.
Pence added that the White House would update the media in coming hours as to whether Trump had been tested for the virus.