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Rand Paul is the first senator to test positive for Covid-19

Colleagues worry about exposure after Paul attended Senate lunches and used the Senate gym in recent days.

Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, his office announced Sunday afternoon, bringing the pandemic into Congress’s upper chamber for the first time.

Paul’s office said he had not been showing any symptoms, but was tested because of extensive travel and contact with people at events in the course of his work. The senator will be self-quarantining now that he has received a positive diagnosis.

Paul is the third member of Congress to test positive for Covid-19 after Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT), and the first member of the Senate.

Reports from congressional insiders indicate a fair amount of worry among Paul’s colleagues about their possible exposure. Paul was at the Senate Republican lunch meeting on Friday and he was reportedly swimming in the Senate gym’s pool on Sunday morning.

“All the senators are going to seek medical advice as to what actions we should take to make sure that we don’t in any way spread this virus ourselves,” Sen. Mitt Romney said after the news of Paul’s diagnosis broke, including whether they should self-quarantine.

The average age of America’s 100 senators was 62 years old as of 2018, putting many of them firmly in the demographics most at risk for developing severe symptoms from Covid-19. The available evidence indicates older people and people with underlying medical conditions are the most likely to need intensive care because of the virus, and they face a higher risk of death if their condition turns critical.

At the same time, Congress is trying to reach a deal on a stimulus package to boost the economy amid a global economic downturn because of the coronavirus pandemic. For now, the Senate is not permitting senators to vote remotely, meaning Paul will likely not be on the floor for those votes.

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