The coronavirus-infected individual at the Conservative Political Action Committee's 2020 conference attended a VIP congressional reception held on the Wednesday evening the conference first began, the Washington Free Beacon has learned from multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
This would mean that potentially dozens of members of Congress and CPAC leaders who attended the reception were exposed to the infected individual as early as the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 26, rather than Thursday, as initial reports had stated.
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Republican bigwigs at the conference are known to have interacted with the infected individual during their time at CPAC. This includes Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), and Reps. Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), and Doug Collins (R., Ga.), among others. The lawmakers self-quarantined after learning they came in contact with the infected attendee.
CPAC officials first disclosed the infected party interacted with several lawmakers and other high-level individuals during events held primarily on Thursday. It later became clear that the person also attended a Shabbat dinner held Friday evening. The individual was not aware at the time he was sick and showed no symptoms while at CPAC.
Now, the Free Beacon has learned that on Wednesday, the first night of the conference, an official CPAC VIP congressional gathering was held at the posh Pose Rooftop Lounge. It included hundreds of CPAC VIPs and staffers, multiple sources confirmed. The infected individual attended this gathering and may have interacted with countless attendees, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told the Free Beacon.
CPAC organizers would not disclose the identities of those who attended the VIP gathering when asked by the Free Beacon, citing privacy concerns. News outlets that attended the event have since asked their journalists to self-quarantine to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
CPAC attendees have been on edge since it was revealed that at least one coronavirus-infected person with "gold level" VIP access attended the annual conference held at the National Harbor in Maryland. With the virus quickly spreading across the United States, including in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, conference-goers have been left to wonder if they were exposed.
Only one individual has thus far tested positive for the virus. That individual has been identified in the press as 55-year-old doctor and Cruz donor Alan Berger.
While the American Conservative Union, CPAC's organizer, attempted to allay concerns about the virus's spread at the conference, many attendees expressed frustration over what they say is the organization's failure to provide informative and timely updates.
An ACU spokesman said the organization is keeping everyone who may have come into contact with the infected individual informed of the latest developments.
Already, CPAC officials contacted hundreds of attendees—both VIPs and average conference-goers—to provide them with real-time information and updates. These communications will continue, sources said.
Still, this has not been enough for some who attended.
"No one at the ACU has communicated with us about this, and there are an increasing number of us with sick friends, or kids, or colleagues," said one source present on the evening of the VIP congressional reception. "I get that not everyone will have the coronavirus. Maybe no one else got it. Hopefully. But the least we expect is for the ACU—which we give so much money every year—to spare us some anxiety. I guess they just don't care."
A second source who attended Wednesday night's "very crowded" VIP shindig had direct interaction with the infected individual and is now experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The source, who requested anonymity, spotted at least a couple hundred top-level CPAC supporters and staffers at the exclusive event.
While ACU head Matt Schlapp tweeted on Monday that no new cases have been reported in the nine days since the conference was held, some attendees are questioning the timing of that claim, particularly in light of how difficult it has been for many to get tested for the virus. It can take several days for an infected individual to show symptoms of the illness, complicating efforts to stop those with it from passing it to others.
Raheem Kassam, a conservative commentator and annual CPAC speaker who took ill after the conference, went on Twitter this week to report the issues he has had obtaining a coronavirus test. Kassam also came in contact with the infected individual who attended CPAC.
I'm now on with CDC.
The first number I called the woman asked, "Are you media?"
I'm not a liar and I am in the media sphere so I said yes.
I've now been told I can only speak to their public affairs team. Despite the fact I'm just trying to get a test for myself.
— Raheem Kassam (@RaheemKassam) March 9, 2020
Update 10:17 p.m.: CPAC organizers confirmed the veracity of the Free Beacon‘s reporting late Tuesday in an email sent to supporters.
The infected person did "attend a Wednesday (2/26) evening event in the POSE Lounge," the group wrote. "If you attended that event you are at very low risk for infection. It takes about five days for symptoms to show after contracting this particular coronavirus."
CPAC organizer ACU said the group contacted anyone who might have been in contact with the virus carrier and is monitoring future developments.