Rep. Griffith tests positive for coronavirus days after speaking with unmasked members

The Virginia Republican wore a mask when not speaking

Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., joined by other House Freedom Caucus members, speaks during a news conference on reopening schools in front of the Capitol on July 9. He tested positive for COVID-19 days later. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., joined by other House Freedom Caucus members, speaks during a news conference on reopening schools in front of the Capitol on July 9. He tested positive for COVID-19 days later. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)
Posted July 14, 2020 at 5:45pm, Updated July 16, 2020 at 12:26pm

Corrected, July 16 | Rep. Morgan Griffith is self-quarantining and has notified colleagues with whom he has been in contact recently after experiencing symptoms and testing positive for the coronavirus.

Griffith spoke Thursday at a House Freedom Caucus press event in front of the Capitol and stood near other lawmakers and medical professionals who were critical of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for being too stringent with guidance on school reopenings. The Virginia Republican was not aware of any symptoms when he spoke at the news conference and wore a mask when not speaking, a spokesman said.

“He left the Capitol complex Thursday afternoon to return to Salem and has not been in DC since,” spokesman Kevin Baird said in a statement. “After the positive test, he has been notifying people with whom he has been in contact.”

Griffith was flanked by several other members, many of whom were not wearing masks.

“For some reason the younger students, in particular, they don’t seem to spread it when they go home,” Griffith said at the event. “So we’re still studying it, but it’s extremely important that we actually follow the real science and not just the fear that has been created by this disease, and it is a serious disease.”

The office of Rep. Andy Biggs, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, reached out to lawmakers who were at the press event last week, encouraging them to seek medical advice, according to Politico’s Melanie Zanona. The Arizona Republican has been critical of mask orders and other government-mandated pandemic safety precautions.

In a June op-ed published in the Washington Examiner, Biggs decried mandates by some officials that all businesses require that people wear masks.

“The easiest case is to allow private businesses and landowners to determine the measures they think most appropriate for public health and safety. We used to do that, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19,” he wrote.

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In the course of June, Arizona saw its new cases balloon from 668 new cases per day on June 1 to 4,300 new cases on July 1. Biggs’ home state has seen a drop in new coronavirus cases in recent days, according to Johns Hopkins University coronavirus data, but it remains one of the world’s hot spots as hospital bed usage sets records.

Griffith joins at least nine other members of the House and three senators who have tested positive for the coronavirus or tested positive for the antibodies.

On Monday, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth posted a photo to Facebook showing him donating plasma. The caption said, “Since I have had COVID19, today I donated convalescent plasma to ensure I help others recover more quickly.”

Katie Webster, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Republican, said he had the virus “while quarantined with his family.”

Hollingsworth wears a mask around the Capitol, she said. “As he has said before, Rep. Hollingsworth believes we need to be focused on our biological response and safety measures so our country can get back to work and our normal way of life.”

Correction: This report was corrected to note Rand Paul is the only senator known to test positive for the virus. Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Tim Kaine of Virginia have said they tested positive for antibodies.