The Coronavirus spread officially to the U.S. Senate on Sunday, as the office of Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky said he had tested positive for the virus, becoming the first Senator to be ensnared in the virus outbreak, and drawing fire from some of his colleagues for his social behavior.
"He is feeling fine and is in quarantine," Paul's office said in a statement sent out via Twitter, saying that the veteran GOP Senator had not be showing any symptoms of sickness.
"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 said.
But GOP Senators quickly said that Paul had been on Capitol Hill as late as Sunday morning, raising alarms among other Senators about whether they could be at risk.
The two Senators from Arizona - one from each party - went on Twitter Sunday to specifically criticize Paul.
“This, America, is absolutely irresponsible. You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results,” said Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ).
“No one is too important to disregard guidance to self-quarantine pending test results,” added Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ).
I’ve never commented about a fellow Senator’s choices/actions. Never once.— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) March 22, 2020
This, America, is absolutely irresponsible. You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results. It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus. https://t.co/651TJf8mWf
I couldn't agree more @kyrstensinema. As we ask all Americans to sacrifice their livelihoods and alter their behavior to save lives, we must ourselves model appropriate #coronavirus behavior. No one is too important to disregard guidance to self-quarantine pending test results. https://t.co/0zQx8yrJA4— Martha McSally (@SenMcSallyAZ) March 23, 2020
Paul's office staff - which was manning his Twitter feed - denied that the Kentucky Republican had done anything wrong by being in public while waiting for his test results.
But it clearly raised questions.
We want to be clear, Senator Paul left the Senate IMMEDIATELY upon learning of his diagnosis. He had zero contact with anyone & went into quarantine. Insinuations such as those below that he went to the gym after learning of his results are just completely false & irresponsible! https://t.co/yqfxydsXBG— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19. 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.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
.@senatorromney: "Very, very unhappy to hear that Rand Paul has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Wish him the very best. He's compromised given health conditions he's had in the past, so we'll be praying for him...all the senators are going to seek medical advice..." pic.twitter.com/tUVuaKBLMm— CSPAN (@cspan) March 22, 2020
Two GOP Senators soon went into self-quarantine - Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Mike Lee, both from Utah - as both had been in close proximity to Paul in recent days.
With Paul on the sidelines - along with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) - five different GOP Senators are now unable to participate in Senate votes and debate.
At the White House, the President lamented the diagnosis for Paul as he said nice words about the Kentucky Republican.
For Romney, it was not the same reaction.
“Romney's is isolation?” the President said to a reporter.
“Gee, that's too bad,” Mr. Trump said in a mocking tone.
Paul joins two House members - Republican Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and Democrat Ben McAdams of Utah - in testing positive for the virus, which has spread around the world in recent months.
None of the three were thought to be in any immediate health danger.
Federal health officials have largely said that people without any symptoms should not be tested, but there is concern among some health professionals that otherwise healthy people could also be carrying the virus - and spreading it.
Last week, Paul was at work on Capitol Hill.
I took a picture inside the Senate GOP lunch when the door was open Friday and saw Rand Paul seated next to other senators. He is visible in this photo. pic.twitter.com/4qwZo5YdBs— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 22, 2020
By the way, 6 days ago, Ron Paul — Rand Paul’s father — wrote a column calling coronavirus “a big hoax.” Welp. https://t.co/ZpUECZHaDG— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) March 22, 2020
Paul had generated headlines earlier this month when he slowed work on an $8 billion Coronavirus response bill approved by the House.
The Kentucky Republican tried but failed to force the Congress to pay for the plan wit cuts in other areas of the budget.
Paul was the only Senator to vote against the first Coronavirus bill, and one of eight to vote against a second plan approved last week.
With Paul and his four other GOP colleagues on the sidelines, the GOP majority in the Senate is down to 48-47, instead of the usual 53-47 split.