CPAC Chair Had Brief Contact With Coronavirus Patient at Conference

Matt Schlapp shook Trump's hand on final day of conference
March 8, 2020 Updated: March 8, 2020

The chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) confirmed that he had brief contact with an attendee of an event who has tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, but added that he’s unaware of anyone else contracting the virus, including himself.

Matt Schlapp told the Washington Post and Fox News that he interacted with the COVID-19 patient and told the broadcaster that he had “incidental contact” with the attendee “very briefly.”

On the final day of the conference March 7, Schlapp appeared on the stage with President Donald Trump and shook the president’s hand. In a Twitter post, he wrote that the “attendee, who is now sick, did not attend” the event on March 7 when Trump delivered his remarks.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told news outlets that neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence were in “close proximity to the attendee” who was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. Trump told reporters on March 7 that he’s “not concerned at all,” adding that he will still hold “tremendous rallies” in light of the worldwide outbreak.

“I can verify that he had no contact with either the president or the vice president,” Schlapp told Fox on March 8. “I can tell you, when the president was on site at CPAC, he lives by what he tells us, because I saw him scrub down his hands and clean his hands more than once while he was on the premises, and I did the same, by the way.”

Schlapp said he called everyone he knows who might have had contact with the patient.

“Nobody who was at the conference should panic about what happened,” he said. “We’re going to take all the necessary steps.”

On March 7, the American Conservative Union, which hosts the high-profile CPAC, confirmed that one of its attendees tested positive and is now under quarantine. The conference was held on Feb. 26 to Feb. 29 in National Harbor, Maryland, inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

“A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and CDC confirmed the positive result,” the organizer wrote in a statement. “The health and safety of our attendees and participants is our top priority,” the statement added. “Any attendee who has questions can contact ACU or the Department of Health for the State of Maryland.”

In addition to Trump and Pence, other prominent figures who spoke at the conference included Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), presidential adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

milan station italy coronavirus
A woman, wearing a face mask, carries a suitcase at Milan’s Central Station in Milan, on March 8, 2020. (Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

“We’re obviously concerned about the patient,” said Schlapp in the Fox News interview, adding that he spoke with the patient on March 7 over the phone. “This patient’s feeling better. I believe [he] is on the mend, so that’s good news.”

“I’m taking precautions. I’m talking to my doctor,” he said. “I talked to my mom last night, who was at the conference, who is 80 years old. She feels like a million bucks. I feel healthy as a horse. My kids do as well, so there’s no indications from anybody I’ve talked to that there are any more problems.”

Elaborating further, Schlapp said the patient didn’t walk around the conference and spent more time in a “small area.”

The virus is believed to have emerged in mainland China in late 2019, sickening tens of thousands of people and triggering Chinese Communist Party officials to put hundreds of millions of people on lockdown, while forcing numerous Chinese workers to stay home, prompting fears of a worldwide economic downturn.