GOP senator with virus says he’ll make Supreme Court vote
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee revealed Friday he was infected with the coronavirus in an announcement that came just hours after President Donald Trump said he had the disease.
The conservative senator plans to isolate for 10 days then return to public life the day the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin considering the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
“I will be back to work in time to join my colleagues in advancing” her nomination, Lee wrote.
Lee said he took the test Thursday after getting medical advice about symptoms similar to longtime allergies, according to a statement posted on Twitter.
He visited the White House on Saturday as Trump announced Barrett’s nomination, and met with her two days before he started feeling symptoms.
Studies have shown that people may be contagious for about two days prior to developing COVID-19 symptoms and may be most contagious during that time.
Trump disclosed that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive overnight; Lee tweeted his own diagnosis mid-morning Friday. The isolation period comes on the recommendation of the Senate attending physician, Lee said in his statement.
The cases at the highest levels of government have Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calling for a robust contact tracing effort, including identifying, testing and isolating people who came in close contact with those infected.
It’s unclear when and how the Utah Republican caught the virus, but Lee said he had tested negative ahead of the Saturday visit to the White House. The visit featured little social distancing and few masks. Lee was shown carrying, but not wearing, a mask as he shook hands and hugged multiple people at that event.
Lee also met with Barrett in the Capitol on Tuesday. The two were not wearing masks when they posed for a photo without adhering to social distancing guidelines. Most of their meeting took place in chairs distanced further apart, however.
Lee previously self-quarantined for two weeks in late March and April, after his colleague Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky tested positive for the coronavirus. Lee rode back to Utah then with fellow Utah Sen. Mitt Romney on a plane chartered by the former presidential candidate. Neither senator caught the virus at that time.
Lee will remain in Washington during this isolation period, his spokesman Conn Carroll said. Romney tweeted that he hopes Lee makes a speedy recovery. He also encouraged people to wear masks and referenced a current spike of cases in Utah, where counts are hitting the state’s highest levels since the pandemic began.
The state’s Republican governor has stopped short of mandating masks, instead leaving it up to counties to decide.
The diagnosis makes Lee the second person in the Utah Congressional delegation to come down with the disease. Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams became the second person in Congress diagnosed with coronavirus this spring, and recovered after a hospitalization.