Florida House members possibly exposed to coronavirus cleared to return to House floor

Five house members attended conferences with people infected with coronoavirus

Florida House members who were possibly exposed to coronavirus at two recent events were cleared to return to the Florida House floor on Monday after briefly self-isolating.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida House members who were possibly exposed to coronavirus at two recent events were cleared to return to the Florida House floor on Monday after briefly self-isolating.

Florida Speaker of the House Jose Oliva announced that five House members were possibly exposed at the Conservative Political Action Conference and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference, where at least one person was infected with COVID-19: Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Rep. Thad Altman, Rep. Kionne McGhee, Rep. Byron Donalds and Rep. Corie Byrd.

“In an effort to set an example in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, and in an abundance of caution for their fellow Members and staff, Representatives Sabatini, Altman, McGhee, Donalds and Byrd, along with a staff member, have voluntarily agreed to submit to testing after attending an event in Washington, D.C., where an attendee later tested positive. They have self-isolated pending return of results," Oliva tweeted. “After leaving the event 10 days ago, Representatives Sabatini, Altman, McGhee, Donalds, Byrd and the staff member are NOT symptomatic, and they were not in direct contact at any time with the individual who tested positive for the virus. Furthermore, none of the Members or staff stayed at the same hotel nor did they attend any functions with the person who tested positive.”

[RELATED: Here’s what it means to self-isolate]

“We were completely surprised because it’s been over a week,” said Rep. Thad Altman, R-Dist. 52.

“At the end of the day, we got to take every precaution that we are able to take,” said Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Dist. 32. “(We need to) have an abundance of caution to make everybody’s safe.”

House members were evacuated from the floor, while house leadership said they consulted with the Florida Department of Health and the Surgeon General.

Altman told News 6 that the surgeon general cleared all five house members to return to work after none of them displayed symptoms.

He said the house floor was cleaned during the short recess.

Rep. Matt Gaetz -- who last week wore a gas mask while voting on a coronavirus House bill -- also announced on Twitter Monday that he is self-isolating after he came into contact with a Conservative Political Action Conference attendee 11 days ago who tested positive for COVID-19.

Although Gaetz isn’t experiencing symptoms, he did receive coronavirus testing and is expecting the results soon.

Oliva said the House will implement sanitation protocols, including sanitizing desks and common areas to ensure members, staff and the public are provided "reasonable assurance of cleanliness.

“Lastly, the House is following all CDC recommendations and working closely with the Department of Health," he said.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 6 for updates.

About the Authors:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.

Erik Sandoval joined the News 6 team as a reporter in May 2013 and became an Investigator in 2020. During his time at News 6, Erik has covered several major stories, including the 2016 Presidential campaign. He was also one of the first reporters live on the air at the Pulse Nightclub shooting.