Congressman with Coronavirus Says Symptoms Hit Him ‘Like a Ton of Bricks’

A Florida politician is speaking out about his experience after contracting the novel coronavirus that has spread around the world.

On Saturday, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart opened up on NBC Nightly News about contracting the virus, in his first on-camera interview since he became one of the first members of Congress to contract the virus last week.

Speaking with his older brother, NBC’s Jose Diaz-Balart, the lawmaker said he’s “feeling better” but that the virus is “a tricky bug,” describing how the symptoms appeared quickly and seemingly all at once.

“They pretty much hit me like a ton of bricks,” Mario, 58, said.

He told NBC that he felt fine last Saturday and then, suddenly, he began feeling symptoms.

“Saturday evening I started getting amazingly just a splitting headache,” he said. “And then pretty intensive fever and a cough. Now luckily, I have not had an issue breathing so I’ve never had a scary moment but obviously very, very unpleasant with headaches, with coughing, and with a pretty intense fever — all coming at the same time it seems.”

The Florida Republican and Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat, both tested positive for the virus last week.

“I’m feeling about as sick as I’ve been,” McAdams, 45, told CNN on Friday. “I got really labored breathing. I feel like I have a belt around my chest, really tight. When I cough, my muscles are so sore so I just feel pain every time I cough, which is frequently. I feel short of breath, and I have a fever of about 102. So, it’s pretty bad.”

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tested positive for the virus over the weekend, adding to a growing worry that the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness that’s killed more than 15,000 globally, could move with particular ease through Congress — where many lawmakers are over 60 and so at more risk and, by nature of their jobs, have more contact with the public.

Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both Republicans from Utah, announced they were going into self-isolation on Sunday after Paul tested positive.

“Since Senator Romney sat next to Senator Paul for extended periods in recent days and consistent with CDC guidance, the attending physician has ordered him to immediately self-quarantine and not to vote on the Senate floor,” Romney’s office told CNN.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate on a $1.6 trillion relief bill, following earlier relief packages already passed an signed into law.

President Donald Trump has said he’s among those who would support temporarily allowing congressmen to vote from other locations while they isolate to help stop the virus’ spread.

“I know that the leadership, House and Senate — bipartisan — they’re looking at ways to make sure that they keep people safe and allow Congress to proceed,” Rep. Diaz-Balart said on NBC. “We just got to make sure it’s done right and it’s done safely, but also that it’s done constitutionally.”

To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.

Health officials have also urged people around the country to practice “social distancing” and avoid gatherings and stay home as much as possible to slow new infections.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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