Hundreds in DC asked to quarantine after exposure in church

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FILE - In this Jan. 29, 2020, file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rides an escalator before speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. GOP Sen. Cruz said Sunday, March 8, 2020, he will remain at his home in Texas after learning that he shook hands and briefly chatted with a man in suburban Washington who has tested positive for coronavirus. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Several hundred people are being asked to self-quarantine after potential exposure to the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in Washington D.C., identified as the rector of prominent Episcopal church.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday that anyone who entered Christ Church Georgetown on Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 is requested to self-quarantine for two weeks from the date of their entrance to the church.

The new precautions come as the virus continues to roil the normal routine in the nation's capital. A popular convention city and a springtime destination for hundreds of school trips and thousands of tourists, Washington officials have insisted that the city remains open for business. But tourism leaders admit that they expect virus fears to cut into the visitor numbers — including for the popular Cherry Blossom Festival, which starts on March 20.

Officials on Saturday had announced the district’s first positive test, but identified the victim only as a man in his 50s. A second local positive test involves a man who visited the Washington area from Nigeria, but he was being hospitalized in Maryland.

Rev. Timothy Cole, the church rector, announced Sunday that he was the person whom city officials had been referring to as “patient 1.” He remains hospitalized in stable condition and the church has canceled all activities until further notice.

Late Monday, the district announced three more confirmed cases, including one man who had attended Christ Church. The church's Facebook page said its organist/choirmaster was quarantined at home but feeling well “given the circumstances.”

Dr. Anjali Talwalkar of the Washington Health Department said Monday that an exposure risk is defined as coming within six feet of a person with active virus symptoms.

“Several hundred people were potentially impacted,” she said.