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Two attendees at pro-Israel conference positive for virus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two people who attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington earlier this week have tested positive for the coronavirus, the group tweeted Friday.

The cases, in two people from New York, are the first linked to the nation's capital.

Thousands of people attended the policy conference, including some members of Congress and administration officials. Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among the speakers.

Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health appeared to have been caught unaware of the positive tests in the two AIPAC attendees.

Asked at a White House briefing if he was concerned that the coronavirus was now in Washington, Pence said it was the first he had heard about the cases in the midst of a busy day. “We will be engaged. I'm confident in the same contact tracing that we are for any case,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health called contact tracing — the process of trying to find out whom the person had been in contact with — “the public health weapon.”

“We need to get those people isolated to do the contact tracing,” he said. "We don't have enough information now because this is the first I've actually heard about it also.”

AIPAC, a major pro-Israel lobbying group, used Twitter to announce the positive test results: "We have confirmed that at least two Policy Conference attendees from New York have tested positive for the coronavirus,” it said.

The group said it is in contact with health officials in Westchester County, New York, and Washington. It urged attendees to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and to consult with their doctors if they feel ill or have medical questions.

“If you test positive for coronavirus, we urge you to inform your local health authorities so they can properly coordinate their response to this situation with the appropriate health authorities,” AIPAC said.

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.