Third AIPAC Conference Attendee Tests Positive for Coronavirus

It is unknown whether LA resident contracted coronavirus before attending the policy conference, which attracted some 18,000 participants

The backdrop of the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., March 2, 2020.
AFP

WASHINGTON – A third AIPAC Policy Conference attendee has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health statement said Saturday.

The patient is a Los Angeles resident who recently returned from the pro-Israel lobby's conference in Washington, the statement said. The department did not mention whether this person contracted Covid-19 at AIPAC, or if they had already caught it before the conference, which took place from last Saturday until Tuesday and drew about 18,000 participants. 

On Friday, AIPAC sent out an email to its mailing list saying that two New York residents who attended the conference have tested positive for the coronavirus. A day earlier, the pro-Israeli lobby emailed event participants, saying that a delegation from a New York synagogue had been in contact with a person who had the virus before the event. The announcements stirred confusion and concern among other conference attendees both in the United States and in Israel. 

Several Israelis who attended the conference and returned to Israel before AIPAC’s announcement gave different accounts on how Israeli authorities handled their arrival from Washington.

“I have not been instructed to go into quarantine since returning,” said one Israeli who had spoken at the conference. “I also called the government hotline and was told there are no special instructions regarding the conference. I canceled some plans I had for this week, but am not fully in quarantine.”

Another participant who attended two days of the conference and is now in Israel also expressed confusion: “I read in the news that people who attended international gatherings are instructed to be quarantined at home, but I’m not sure if that applies to AIPAC. I haven’t received any direct instructions.” 

The official Israeli government directives for those returning from abroad do indeed contain a clause about people returning from international conferences – they are asked to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days. But although the Israeli authorities were aware of the possible presence of the coronavirus at the AIPAC conference as early as Wednesday, there have not been specific guidelines issued to the hundreds of Israelis who attended. 

“I was told that I don’t need to be in quarantine according to Health Ministry regulations,” another Israeli who spoke at the conference told Haaretz on Saturday, “but I’m mostly staying indoors anyway, just in case.”

In the United States, no specific instructions have been given to anyone who attended the conference.