Rand Paul is first US senator to report positive test for virus

Republican, who was at Capitol Hill last Wednesday, says he has shown no symptoms and is in quarantine

In this image made from video, US Senator Rand Paul speaks on the Senate floor at the US Capitol in Washington, March 18, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image made from video, US Senator Rand Paul speaks on the Senate floor at the US Capitol in Washington, March 18, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said Sunday that he had tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, becoming the first member of the Senate to report a case of COVID-19. He said in a tweet that he was feeling fine and was in quarantine.

Paul, a doctor, said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

Paul, a deficit hawk, was among eight Senate Republicans who voted against a House-passed bill last week that provided more than $100 billion to boost testing for the coronavirus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers. He also was the only Republican senator who opposed an earlier bill authorizing $8.3 billion for initial response to the coronavirus.

The senator was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon, which was the last time the Senate held floor votes, including on one of his amendments. While Senate Republicans have lunched together as a group most days since, it is unclear if Paul was among them.

Two US House members, Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, a Florida Republican, and Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, have tested positive.

The Senate was in session Sunday, seeking a bipartisan response to the pandemic. If approved, the bill would be the third measure Congress has approved in response to the coronavirus this month.

The White House has increasingly emphasized that testing should prioritize the elderly and healthcare workers who have symptoms of the virus. While most cases of COVID-19 are mild, older people and those with underlying health problems are at higher risk for more serious problems, such as pneumonia.

“We don’t want everyone to go out and get a test because there’s no reason for it,” US President Donald Trump told reporters in a briefing Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells people to seek testing if they have certain symptoms of the flu-like illness caused by the coronavirus – fever, cough and trouble breathing – and if they have traveled recently to an outbreak area or have been in close contact with someone who is infected. They should first be tested for the flu and other routine infections.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

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