It was announced on Sunday that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, making him the first member of the U.S. Senate to contract the viral contagion.
In the wake of that announcement, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) encouraged all other senators, and presumably staffers as well, who have recently been in contact with Paul to consult with their own health providers to determine if they needed to be tested for the virus, The Daily Caller reported.
Thune advises caution
Given the fact that Sen. Paul has been heavily in the mix of things over the past week as the Senate worked on an economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak and in contact with a range of people, the concern from Thune appears entirely justified.
According to Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram, Thune said other senators should “consult with the attending physician about appropriate measures for those who have been in contact with the senator.”
Thune on Sen Paul testing positive for coronavirus. Says senators will “consult with the attending physician about appropriate measures for those who have been in contact with the senator.”
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 22, 2020
Remote voting under consideration
Thus far, Sen. Paul is the only member of the Senate to be diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, though other senators and staffers — as well as members and staffers in the House — have isolated or quarantined themselves for a period of time after coming into contact with others who had tested positive for the virus.
In light of that and the fact that an increasing number of members are now unable to show up and vote on the people’s business, Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have put forward a bipartisan resolution that would change the Senate’s rules and allow members to cast votes remotely during a national emergency, such as the current public health crisis.
As for Paul himself, his office noted in a pair of tweets: “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.
“He expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period ends and will continue to work for the people of Kentucky at this difficult time. Ten days ago, our D.C. office began operating remotely, hence virtually no staff has had contact with Senator Rand Paul,” his office added.
Paul at increased risk
Separately, in a press release from the senator’s office, Paul explained that he had decided to obtain a test for COVID-19 due to the fact that both he and his wife had done some extensive traveling recently and had attended large gatherings. Most crucial, however, was the fact that he falls into a higher-risk patient pool due to the removal of part of his lung last year and a subsequent case of pneumonia following a violent physical attack at the hands of a former neighbor.
Paul’s sought testing despite the fact that he hadn’t felt any symptoms or been in direct contact with anybody else known to have contracted the disease. Ironically, he noted that if he hadn’t pursued the test on his own accord, he likely wouldn’t have been recommended to do so since he didn’t fit the profile, in which case he would still be walking the halls of the Senate and interacting with numerous other people who could be exposed.
Thankfully, Sen. Paul took the extra step of determining whether he was infected or not. Similarly, Sen. Thune should be thanked for urging everyone else who has been in contact with Paul to see if they need to be tested or quarantined as well, if only to be extra careful.