U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Centre, has not been tested for COVID-19 after two House of Representatives members were found to have the coronavirus that has led to a pandemic.
Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Florida, and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced on Wednesday that they have the disease. They are self-quarantining. Both voted on the floor as recently as last Saturday.
“I’ve not really had any interactions with the individuals previously for months,” said Thompson, congressman for Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District that includes most of Cambria County. “There are 435 of us, so I haven’t had any interaction with the gentleman from Florida or the gentleman from Utah. And, quite frankly, my health is good, giving no signs. We’re not really doing testing or encouraging testing (until) once you were to get signs and symptoms – that would include high elevated fever for a couple days, accompanied by upper-respiratory compromise, difficulty breathing. And I’m pretty healthy actually. Things are good.”
Testing was one of several coronavirus issues Thompson discussed when doing a telephone interview from his residence on Friday.
Thompson credited President Donald Trump for assembling what the congressman considers to be an “impressive team” to deal with the outbreak that has led to almost 19,000 Americans being infected with somewhere in the mid-200s dying, as of around 6 p.m. on Friday.
“In addition to all the experts he’s surrounded himself with, he’s consulting with Congress, working with us,” Thompson said. “He’s just really brought everybody to the table. That’s what we need, especially during a time of national crisis like this.”
Trump, earlier this year, referred to coronavirus as a political “hoax,” which detractors cite as an example of how they feel he dangerously downplayed the potential severity of the situation. Thompson called their comments “political name calling.”
On Jan. 31, the president announced that foreign nationals who traveled to China – where the outbreak started – in the previous 14 days would be denied entry into the United States.
“The fact is that the president showed initiative by instituting a travel ban,” Thompson said. “He did that early. That’s shown to have been tremendously effective in the fact of reducing our exposure in this country and going a long way towards slowing, reducing how rapid this has spread compared to other countries that literally have had open borders and were slow to come around to closing borders.”
Thompson thinks hospitals in his sprawling 14-county district are doing a good job to have a plan in place for any local outbreaks.
“You prepare for the worst and you hope for the best,” Thompson said. “I think that’s what we’re doing.”
Some have sent tents up outside in case large numbers of patients need to be treated.
“That’s just part of good planning and preparation in the event that they would need to do that,” Thompson said. “I know some people are seeing these tents and that may add to a little bit of anxiety. This is our first social media virus. It really has increased I think fear, and anxiety. And seeing tents set up will probably contribute to that.
“I think people need to know that’s just a great sign of preparation by your local hospital.”
The congressman raised objections to how Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, ordered the closing of all non-life-sustaining businesses in an attempt to slow the coronavirus spread.
“I would say what the governor did (on Thursday) created almost more panic, well, it really did create kind of a panic,” Thompson said. “We need to treat this extremely seriously because it has the potential to have some serious consequences. There have been 268 people who have lost their lives (in the United States), including one individual from Northampton County, in Pennsylvania. At the same time, we know what is most effective – and I heard this from the secretary of health in Pennsylvania, probably less than an hour ago (on Friday afternoon), and I’ve obviously heard it from the administration over and over again – it’s the social distancing, it’s avoiding the contact. It’s the good personal hygiene. It’s cleaning surfaces.”
He encouraged older residents and those with medical conditions to limit interactions with people.
“There’s no vaccine today,” Thompson said. “I think there will be hopefully in the near future. You really want your own immune system to battle this virus in your body. If your immune system is suppressed, that’s kind of a challenge. Those are the folks that have unfortunately lost their lives to this virus.”