Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who was the only senator to oppose a coronavirus relief package last month, announced Sunday that he has tested positive for the virus.
“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,” an announcement on his Twitter said. “He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events.”
It added, “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.”
In addition to being the only senator to vote against an $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus package, Paul also was one of the eight senators who voted against paid sick leave in a stimulus bill that passed with an overwhelming 90-8 vote last week.
“I think that the paid sick leave is an incentive for businesses to actually let go employees and will make unemployment worse,” Paul, a physician who has a Kentucky-issued medical license, explained to Newsweek.
CNN reported that Paul closed his Capitol Hill offices over a week ago and urged employees to work from home due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Two people who attended the annual Speed Art Museum ball in Kentucky with the senator on March 7 later tested positive for the virus, according to the Courier-Journal.
But despite reportedly being tested roughly a week ago, Paul continued to interact with colleagues and even worked out at the Senate gym—and was swimming in the pool—on Sunday morning, shortly before he received his positive test results, Politico reported.
Paul is the first senator to test positive for the novel coronavirus. Two other members of Congress, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT), have also gone public with positive test results.
According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is particularly dangerous for people with lung problems. In August 2019, Paul had part of his lung removed after an altercation with his neighbor Rene Boucher. The two had a long-running dispute over lawn care.
“While it is worldwide, I think there is room for optimism that this thing may plateau out in a few weeks and not be as bad it as it may have been portrayed,” he said to host Neil Cavuto. “We’ve seen pockets of this around the world and even in Italy and Iran where we have it, but none of it is approaching what started in China.”
When asked about institutions taking larger measures to limit the spread of the virus, Paul was resistant to the idea. “I think closing down the Smithsonians would be way too premature and I wouldn’t advise something like that.”
And when Cavuto asked Paul about making personal adjustments to avoid infection, the Senator was particularly defiant. “I mean, I fly all the time and I’m not cutting back on my flying... I was on a plane today,” he said. “I could be wrong and this could be really bad in two or three weeks or a month, but I’m hoping it’s not going to be. I’m not ready to buy all the toilet paper at Target.”
The senator’s father, Dr. Ron Paul, a physician and a former Republican congressman from Texas, published an essay called “The Coronavirus Hoax” last week for the New River Valley News, a local outlet based in Virginia.
“People should ask themselves whether this coronavirus ‘pandemic’ could be a big hoax, with the actual danger of the disease massively exaggerated by those who seek to profit—financially or politically—from the ensuing panic,” the elder Paul wrote.
As of Sunday afternoon, there are 30,000 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and nearly 400 people have died.