Byron Donalds tested positive for COVID-19 before Donald Trump’s Fort Myers event

Byron Donalds
Opponent calls it "predictable outcome for someone who chose to not wear a mask."

State Representative and congressional candidate Byron Donalds tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

The Naples Republican took a test before an expected appearance at an event with President Donald Trump in Fort Myers.

“In the lead up to the event with the President, I was tested and notified today that I was positive,” Donalds said in a statement. “My wife Erika and oldest son have tested negative, other results are pending.”

The Donalds have three children. It wasn’t immediately clear whether all had been tested for the coronavirus.

Donalds in August won a high-profile Republican primary for an open seat representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District.

For the moment, Donalds has not reported any symptoms.

“I currently feel fine but am taking all necessary precautions and will be quarantining at home,” he said. “We have notified the organizers of the events I have attended in recent days. We will be holding virtual events and using other means to reach out to voters in the meantime. I look forward to recovering fully and earning the support of voters on Nov. 3rd.”

Democratic opponent Cindy Banyai wished the Donalds family well in her own statement.

“I want to send my regards to Byron and his family as they deal with his coronavirus infection,” she said. “I wish him a speedy recovery and health for the rest of his family. This terrible disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans is serious and not something I would wish on anyone.”

But she also tweeted this was a “predictable outcome for someone who chose to not wear a mask” and issued a call for Donalds to quarantine for the full 14 days suggested by the original Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“Anyone who has been in contact with him in the last week needs to do the same, as well as get tested,” she said. “I encourage everyone around Southwest Florida to take their neighbor into consideration and wear a mask, as well as practice social distancing and good hand hygiene so we can end this pandemic for good. Now is the time for leadership on mask wearing and public health practices.”

Notably, the CDC in July reduced its recommended quarantine time to 10 days.

Donalds has consistently declined to wear masks at events, in either the primary or general election cycle. A refusal to wear a mask prompted Banyai, whose daughter suffers from an autoimmune disorder, to cancel a debate in Estero last week. The Democrat said she now feels vindicated.

“I am disappointed in Donalds’ leadership around the COVID-19 crisis,” she said. “He has worked against mask mandates and ignored scientists when they tell us about the seriousness of the disease. He put his freedom above our health and now he is infected. I can only hope he has not infected others in Southwest Florida by refusing to wear a mask.”

Before the diagnosis, the Donalds camp said to focus of the campaign was no longer on debates.

“Byron has debated Cindy Banyai four times already covering a broad range of topics,” said consultant Mark Harris. “There is no controversy surrounding masks, but we are focusing on talking to voters directly as the campaign comes to a close. We’re confident that Byron’s record of accomplishments fighting for the people of Southwestern Florida stands out.”

The diagnosis will certainly impact Donalds as his campaign prepared for the finals stage of the election.

But it likely won’t matter. As of the book closing for the November election, the Congressional District had 250,048 registered Republicans compared to 144,530 Democrats and 148,297 independents.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Sonja Fitch

    October 17, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    The goptrump death cult is hell bent to implement herd immunity with super spreader rallies and packed indoor evets! The cult is a cult is a cult! Trump
    Says do it and they do it and get sick
    And die! Those are brainwashed and braindead folks!

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