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Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley tests positive for COVID-19

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley tests positive for COVID-19
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announces he has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing mild symptoms. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 23 (UPI) -- Sen. Jeff Merkley has tested positive for COVID-19, the latest in a wave of cases among lawmakers in the last month.

The Oregon Democrat announced Monday he is experiencing mild symptoms after coming into close contact with someone who had the virus.

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"Today, after having a close contact, I took a COVID test that came back positive. I'm experiencing mild symptoms so far -- I know that can change -- and attribute that to being vaccinated and boosted," Merkley tweeted.

Merkley's absence from Capitol Hill could upend this week's Democratic agenda in an evenly divided Senate, as Majority Leader Charles Schumer's domestic terrorism bill faces a preliminary vote. Senate Republicans have vowed to block the bill, after it passed the House along party lines. Democratic leaders could delay the vote if some members are absent.

"I am following CDC guidance and isolating while continuing to work for Oregonians from my home in Portland. Once it is safe, I will resume meeting in person and will return to Washington, D.C. for Senate duties," Merkley tweeted.

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Oregon's Washington, D.C., delegation has been hit hard recently with COVID-19. Sen. Ron Wyden, who is also vaccinated, tested positive in late April, as did Reps. Early Blumenauer and Peter DeFazio. Vice President Kamala Harris also tested positive in late April.

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Health experts said Monday COVID-19 may be easing into a new status as a harsher version of the common cold -- a virus that anyone can contract repeatedly, even after previous infections.

Ahead of this weekend's Memorial holiday gatherings, Merkley urged everyone to get vaccinated.

"I strongly encourage all Oregonians and Americans to take advantage of available vaccines and boosters to stay safe," Merkley said. "This is yet another reminder that COVID is still among us. As Americans make plans before the holiday weekend, I encourage everyone to take steps to make sure the virus is not an uninvited guest."

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