Rand Paul has become the first senator to test positive for the novel coronavirus, his office said Sunday, March 22, a development that raises questions about the threat the virus poses to senators' health as they defy warnings about public gatherings.
Paul, R-Ky., is the third member of Congress to announce he has tested positive for the virus. Last week, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced they had tested positive.
"Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19," Paul's office said in a statement Sunday, referring to the disease the virus causes. "He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person."
Paul's office added that the senator "expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends" and that "virtually no staff" has had contact with him since Paul's Washington office began operating remotely 10 days ago.
Paul received his test results Sunday morning, according to his deputy chief of staff, Sergio Gor.
Paul, 57, is in his second term in the Senate. Last year, he revealed that part of his lung was surgically removed because of injuries he sustained in 2017 when he was attacked by his neighbor. Paul also traveled to Ontario, Canada, last year to have hernia surgery, which he said was related to the 2017 assault.
The news of Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sparked concern Sunday on Capitol Hill, where the Kentucky Republican has been present in recent days as lawmakers have been working on a financial relief package in response to the pandemic.
Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, said he was not certain how the Senate should handle lawmakers being in the Capitol complex at the moment. He suggested that members should finish their work on the legislation and then leave the building.
"We are going to need a little better medical advice on this than we have right now," Blunt told reporters, adding that he has not been given a recent update from the Office of the Attending Physician, which handles lawmakers' health care. "I think we need more information before we can comment knowledgeably."
Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., said it was "concerning that we have two House members and one senator already testing positive."
But he noted that the Capitol has been closed to the general public and that many congressional staffers have been sent home amid the pandemic.
"There's virtually no one here in the Capitol except for key and critical senior staff," Coons told CNN in an interview Sunday afternoon.
Paul took part in Friday's Senate Republican luncheon at the Capitol. He was the lone senator to vote "no" earlier this month on an $8.3 billion emergency spending measure to fight the outbreak and on Wednesday was among eight senators to vote against a relief package that ensures paid leave to many Americans.
The Kentucky Republican, who is a frequent critic of federal spending, said in a floor speech Wednesday that he objected to the legislation's price tag and the impact it would have on the federal debt.
"The history of pandemics indicates a strong likelihood that the peak of infections and mortality could pass in a few weeks to a few months," Paul said. "Congress should remain calm and try not to explode the debt in our response."
He also sought to strike a positive tone in addressing the crisis facing the nation.
"Reports indicate that scientists will likely set a speed record in developing a vaccine," Paul said. "Now is not the time for malaise. Now is the time for optimism."
While Paul is the first senator to test positive, several other senators have announced in recent weeks that they are self-quarantining after having contact with individuals who tested positive.
- - -
This article was written by Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, reporters for The Washington Post.
The Washington Post's Paul Kane contributed to this report.
As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.