Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, has tested positive for coronavirus, and is waiting on the result of a second test for confirmation, the Brazilian government said Thursday, confirming earlier reports.
The Brazilian president’s office “has taken and is taking all necessary preventive measures to protect the health of the president and all staff that traveled with him to the United States” last Saturday to Tuesday, it said in a statement.
The diagnosis came after Wajngarten returned from the United States with Bolsonaro, who met with US President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Wajgnarten was photographed standing next to Trump and US Vice President Mike Pence. He shared the photo on his Instagram account on Sunday.
Wajngarten’s wife confirmed that her husband had been infected with the novel coronavirus in a message on a WhatsApp group addressed to parents of the school where their daughters study.
“My husband returned from a trip to the United States yesterday and tested for covid[-19], which turned out to be positive,” Sophie Wajngarten wrote to the group, according to the daily Folha de S. Paulo.
Trump said he was unconcerned, and downplayed his contact with “the press aide,” apparently referring to Wajngarten.
“I did hear something about that. We had dinner together in Florida, in Mar-a-Lago, with the entire delegation. I don’t know if the press aide was there. If he was there, he was there. But we did nothing very unusual,” he said.
“Let me put it this way, I’m not concerned.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Thursday that “exposures from the case are being assessed, which will dictate next steps.”
“Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time,” Grisham said.
Brazilian media reports said Bolsonaro had also been tested for the virus.
Newspaper O Globo reported that the US embassy in Brasilia had contacted the Brazilian government for information on Wajngarten’s test.
The embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP.
Officials announced Thursday that the US Congress was shutting the Capitol to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, a rare step that underscores the growing gravity with which the government is reacting to the viral outbreak.
In a statement, the House and Senate sergeants at arms said congressional office buildings and the Congressional Visitor Center, through which tourists enter the Capitol, were also being shuttered.
Only lawmakers, staff, journalists and visitors with official business will be permitted to enter the buildings. The closures begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, and the buildings are scheduled to reopen on April 1.
Trump’s administration and Congress have struggled over how to react to the virus and COVID-19, the disease it can cause that in some cases can be deadly. Congressional leaders have had to balance conflicting desires of protecting lawmakers and staffs from getting sick with keeping one of the country’s most visible public buildings open. At the White House, tours have been temporarily suspended.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 62,000 have recovered.