Quebec MP in self-isolation after attending event with possible COVID-19 exposure
TORONTO -- A Montreal-area MP is in self-isolation after attending a conference in Washington, D.C. where several attendees have since tested positive for COVID-19.
Anthony Housefather, a Liberal who represents the riding of Mount Royal, told CTV News that he received an email telling him that someone from Toronto who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington between March 1-3 has since tested positive for the virus.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I am self-isolating at home awaiting further instruction from Toronto public health officials,” Housefather wrote in an emailed statement. “I feel absolutely fine and it has already been a week since I left the conference.”
AIPAC said two New York residents who went to the conference have since tested positive for the virus, while a third patient from Los Angeles has also since tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference. It is unclear when exactly the patients contracted the virus.
Toronto city Coun. Josh Matlow said in a statement on Monday that he also attended the AIPAC conference and will self-isolate until March 20.
“I have been informed…that because I am asymptomatic, no one, including my family, is at an elevated risk of having contracted the virus due to contact with me,” he said in the statement.
On Sunday, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar also went into self-quarantine after shaking hands with someone at the Conservative Political Action Conference who later tested positive with COVID-19.
Meanwhile, U.S. Congressmen Matt Gaetz and Doug Collins also announced similar measures on Monday after attending the conference. Both have had recent in-person contact with U.S. President Donald Trump.
All four U.S. politicians have said they feel fine and are going into isolation out of caution.
Former Conservative Party deputy leader Lisa Raitt said on the radio show “Overview with Evan Solomon” last week that viruses can be easily transmitted at the House of Commons.
“I would be sitting there in October, I would hear the first person cough on the other side of the House, and my back would stiffen because I would know: ‘Uh oh, here comes the cold,’” she said.
“I mean, you're close to each other, you're touching the same surfaces, the food is open in the in the lobbies for people to consume and there's coffee all over the place.”
Raitt added that the advice to avoid large crowds adds another wrinkle for MPs when it comes to Canada’s minority government.
“It's something that I think government is going to have to think about,” she said. “How do you (stay home) in a minority government where every vote could potentially be a vote that takes you down, especially in the budget season?”
A spokesperson for the Government House Leader’s Office said the office is closely monitoring the virus situation and will follow the advice of the Canada’s Public Health Agency when it comes to the matter.
“The House of Commons Administration is working with all parties to ensure that everyone is kept informed as the situation evolves,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “The House Administration sent an email to all MPs and staff last week regarding preventative measures to be taken in light of the current situation.”
The administration’s email to MPs and staff included several recommended measures, including frequent hand washing and avoiding touching one’s face. The notice also advised government staff to check with travel advisories before they leave and monitoring themselves for cough and fever for 14 days if they’ve come back from a country with a travel advisory.
With files from Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello