2 Attendees of AIPAC Conference Test Positive for Coronavirus

Over 18,000 people attended conference, including more than two thirds of Congress
March 7, 2020 Updated: March 8, 2020
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At least two people who attended the AIPAC conference in Washington last weekend have tested positive for the new coronavirus, conference organizers said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is one of the biggest lobbying groups in America focusing on Israel, and the group said more than 18,000 Americans attended the conference, including more than two thirds of Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) were among the attendees this year. The conference took place from March 1 to March 3.

In an email to people who went to the conference, the group said that at least two conference attendees from New York tested positive for the new virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19 that has killed thousands across the world since late last year.

Anyone who tests positive for the new virus should call their local health authorities, AIPAC organizers said.

Organizers said they were in “constant communication” with the Westchester County Health Department in New York and the D.C. Health Department, which is coordinating with New York and national health authorities. Organizers said they’ve consulted with Dr. Edward Septimus, a top infectious disease specialist who teaches at Texas A&M College of Medicine.

The D.C. Health Department said in a statement that a joint investigation with the New York State Department of Health has so far identified no risk to conference attendees at this time.

People who attended the conference should stay home if sick and call ahead to their doctor if experiencing symptoms of the new virus, the department said. Symptoms of the virus are similar to those for the flu and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Israel on Wednesday said that any Israelis returning from international conferences held outside the country would be required to stay at home for 14 days after arriving back in the country. The country’s Health Ministry also banned mass events and tourists who were recently in Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman in a face mask walks in the downtown area of Manhattan, New York City, after further cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed in New York on March 5, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Westchester Cluster

One of the largest clusters of cases in the United States is in Westchester County, which sits just outside New York City.

A 50-year-old lawyer who lives in New Rochelle in the county and works in Manhattan, New York, tested positive for the virus in recent days. Authorities said he first showed symptoms on Feb. 22 and was taken to a hospital in Westchester on Feb. 27 before being transferred to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan.

The man is in severe condition.

The man’s children and wife tested positive for the virus, prompting officials to close SAR Academy and High School and Yeshiva University. A neighbor who drove the man to the hospital also tested positive.

Authorities have since reported 30 more cases in Westchester County, including a friend who spent time with the lawyer and the friend’s wife and children.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the case count in the state would continue to rise as more people are tested.

“We want to keep testing and finding more people who are testing positive because that’s how you contain the outbreak—find the person who got infected, quarantine them, and reduce the infection rate,” he said at a press conference on Friday.

New York City has confirmed five cases. Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that authorities are “seeing more examples of community transmission … between people who have no direct connection to travel to one of the affected countries.”

New Yorkers were urged to stay home if feeling sick, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid handshake and other hand-to-hand contact.

People should report symptoms to health authorities and if they don’t get better in one to two days, they should see their doctor, de Blasio said. If people don’t have a doctor or don’t know where to get care, they should call 311.

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