US health officials say no known risk to AIPAC attendees despite infections
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US health officials say no known risk to AIPAC attendees despite infections

Pro-Israel lobby group has said two people at policy conference tested positive for coronavirus, raising fears Pence and other politicians exposed

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2020 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 2, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2020 Policy Conference in Washington, DC, March 2, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

US health authorities said Saturday that they had not identified a risk to AIPAC conference attendees, after the pro-Israel lobby group said at least two people who attended its policy conference have tested positive for the coronavirus.

AIPAC sent out a statement from the DC Health Department, which read: “Based on our investigation thus far, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH), there is no identified risk to conference attendees at this time.”

The statement called for attendees to abide by public health guidelines and be wary of symptoms. The health department said it would work with AIPAC to keep attendees informed of any developments going forward.

AIPAC on Friday warned Congress, the Trump administration, activists and others about the virus infections, raising fears that politicians, including US Vice President Mike Pence, could have been exposed.

The annual conference, which ran from February 28 to March 2, drew 18,000 to Washington, DC.

On Twitter, AIPAC said it sent an email to all speakers, participants and congressional and administration offices.

“If you test positive for coronavirus, we urge you to inform your local health authorities so they can properly coordinate their response to this situation with the appropriate health authorities,” AIPAC said.

It urged attendees to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and to consult with their doctors if they feel ill or have medical questions.

Asked about the disclosure at a White House briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said health officials will be interviewing the infected individuals to see whom they may have had contact with, and to try to determine who may have been exposed.

The conference routinely attracts Congress members and their staffers, as well as top administration officials, including this year Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Additionally, on the last day of the conference AIPAC activists visit virtually every congressional office to lobby.

The AIPAC statement posted late Friday on Twitter said the two people who tested positive are from New York. The outbreak there is centered in the Jewish community in Westchester County north of New York City.

AIPAC said it is in contact with Westchester County’s Health Department, the New York Health Department, national health authorities and the District of Columbia Health Department.

The statement also said the lobby was consulting with Edward Septimus, a professor of internal medicine at Texas A&M University.

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