Sen. Rand Paul announced he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first senator and third member of Congress known to have contracted the virus.
And Senate GOP leaders will now be short five Republicans during a key procedural vote on a massive economic rescue package to deal with the coronavirus crisis, in part due to Paul’s infection.
Paul — who has been working from the Capitol in recent days — said he was tested out of caution “due to his extensive travel and events” and is not showing symptoms of the highly infectious virus. Later, his staff said that Paul had attended an event where two people tested positive, though the senator did not recall specific interactions with either of them.
Paul’s infection quickly reverberated throughout the Senate, where lawmakers were surprised by his diagnosis as they pushed ahead with a massive package to rescue the economy from the outbreak. The Kentucky senator had been interacting with his colleagues just days prior, voting on the floor, sitting in meetings and speaking to reporters in hallways.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are now self-quarantining after close interactions with Paul. Lee’s office said Sunday that the Capitol’s attending physician directed him to stay isolated for 14 days, a recommendation Romney also received. That means Lee and Romney, along with Paul, cannot vote on any legislation on the floor this week as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempts to keep his conference together on the economic rescue bill.
Paul expects to return to the Senate after isolating himself, an aide to the senator said. The staffer added that Paul’s office in Washington has been working remotely for 10 days, so “virtually no staff” has had physical contact with him.
Health officials have said the virus is spread largely among people who are showing symptoms of the disease. But people who have the disease who aren’t symptomatic — like Paul — can still pass it to others.
Privately, some senators have become very concerned over Paul’s diagnosis. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said in a GOP lunch Sunday that Paul was at the gym this morning, swimming in the pool.
Paul is one of a small group of lawmakers to have tested positive for the disease, in addition to Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). Both members developed symptoms last weekend, after being in the Capitol as recently as last Saturday morning.
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