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Central Washington Congressman Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., poses for a photo in his office on Jan. 16 on Capitol Hill, in Washington D.C.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican who represents Central Washington, announced Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19 a day earlier, becoming the eighth lawmaker to test positive since Congress returned from recess last week.

Newhouse made the announcement Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

“I began to feel a little run down yesterday, so I took a COVID-19 test,” Newhouse’s tweet said. “Last night, the results came back positive for the virus. My symptoms remain mild, and I am following CDC guidelines. I am quarantining and will continue to serve the people of Central Washington from home.”

Newhouse and other House lawmakers returned to the Capitol from their home districts on Monday after a six-week election recess. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Daniels confirmed that the congressman voted on the House floor Monday night, but skipped a Tuesday evening vote as a precaution after experiencing symptoms earlier in the day and was quarantining at his Washington, D.C. home.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday morning, Newhouse said he has dined at indoor restaurants, something he had “no qualms about,” though he said he has been careful to wear a mask.

“There’s a tremendous fatigue about COVID,” Newhouse said. “If you’re not sick with it, you’re sick of it … The approach that we should be taking is to re-emphasize the importance of all the things that the health officials are telling us that we should do.”

The GOP lawmaker, recently reelected by a wide margin for a fourth term, represents Washington’s heavily agricultural 4th district, which has been hit harder by the virus than any other part of the state on a per-capita basis. Roughly 1 in 16 Franklin County residents has contracted the virus, according to a New York Times tracker, 1 in 17 in Adams County and 1 in 18 in Yakima County, the highest rates in the state.

The House implemented its first widespread coronavirus testing program on Monday. Eight lawmakers have tested positive in the past week, including the Senate’s oldest Republican, six current House members and an incoming congresswoman.

87-year-old Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican and the longest-serving member of the House, was discharged Sunday after a three-day hospital stay for COVID-19.

A total of 29 lawmakers have contracted the virus this year. No member of Congress has died from COVID-19, but it took the life of a Michigan state representative in March and a candidate for North Dakota’s legislature was elected posthumously after dying from the virus a month before Election Day.

The Democratic-majority House implemented a proxy voting system in the early days of the pandemic that allows lawmakers to cast votes on behalf of absent colleagues, although most Republicans have so far avoided using the option.

As of Wednesday, COVID-19 had killed a quarter million Americans and more than 11.5 million had tested positive, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.