SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton has been self-quarantined at home over the weekend after experiencing symptoms "consistent with COVID-19" within the past week.
While Moulton says he's on the mend, he will probably miss key votes related to the massive $2 trillion bipartisan stimulus bill for which an agreement was finally hammered out between the White House and U.S. Senate leadership early Wednesday morning. The bill is meant to provide a lifeline to struggling businesses, industries and families with much of the economy shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After checking with three doctors within the past day, Moulton said he figured his self-quarantine would end Saturday, March 28, so he has gone public over concern he would be called back to Washington, D.C., before then to vote on the stimulus bill, and that by traveling he could infect others.
Moulton said he is feeling OK, but has felt under the weather for a while until symptoms came on last Thursday, March 19, when he experienced "a real tightness" in the chest." It was something he had never felt before. Taking a deep breath, he said, proved painful. He started to feel better on Saturday.
"The term I've been given is 'symptomatic,'" said Moulton, 41, "but I can't take a test because there are no tests."
Moulton, who served four tours during the Iraq War in the Marine Corps, continues to receive his health care from Veterans Affairs. When asked if he was able to obtain a test from the VA, he replied: "There are no tests."
"And I don't want to take a test away from someone who needs it more," he said. "But this points to the massive failure of the administration in not having enough tests, because certainly Americans who are symptomatic should be able to get tests."
A statement provided by Moulton's office pointed out he had written Vice President Mike Pence about a month ago demanding more widespread testing, and the fact tests are not more available "is a major failure of the administration I will continue fighting to fix."
Moulton said he and his wife, Liz, have minor symptoms "consistent with COVID-19." Moulton said he's had shortness of breath, tightness in his chest, fatigue, body aches, a low-grade fever and a sore throat.
"I've not had a bad cough," he said. "But one of the lessons of this virus is that it manifests with very minor symptoms in many people. And yet you can still be a carrier of the disease. And, frankly, I might have another respiratory illness, but the last thing I want to do in the midst of this pandemic is to spread anything."
The three doctors Moulton spoke with all offered different opinions on whether he should be tested, he said — one is a friend, one his doctor at the VA and one who is the House of Representatives' attending physician.
His friend who works as an ER doctor told him he should get tested immediately, the VA advised him he didn't meet the testing criteria, and the House physician told him that because he is symptomatic, whether or not he tests positive would not change the prescription to self-quarantine.
His wife has had similar symptoms and is starting to feel better, Moulton said, and the couple's baby daughter, Emmy, who is 18 months old, has no symptoms at all, which is consistent with COVID-19 rarely causing problems for children.
The criteria for ending self-quarantine is seven days after symptoms improve and 72 hours without a fever. Moulton started to feel better on March 21.
"I hope that this also sends a message to other people out there who may have minor symptoms that we've all got to take this seriously and we all have to practice true social distancing to keep everybody else safe," he said.
Another member of Congress who tested positive for COVID-19, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, is asymptomatic, Moulton noted. Two other members of the House, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced last week they had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to news reports.
In a statement, Moulton said that well before he began experiencing symptoms, he had his staff in Salem and Washington, D.C. — except for two essential staff members — all work from home and self-isolate.
Moulton said he felt good enough to go for a run on Tuesday, "carefully keeping my distance from others."
"I am making this public because I will potentially miss some important votes as a result," he said. "I will make very clear my position on those votes ahead of time, and I'll continue fighting for health care workers who need PPE (personal protective equipment), the unemployed who still need to put food on the table, for the sick who need respirators and access to care, and for small businesses who are the lifeblood of our economy."
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2534, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews. Find us at 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 107, Danvers, Mass.