Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky on Monday defended his decision to not self-quarantine while he awaited the results of his coronavirus test, a move that has been met with criticism and concern after he announced a day earlier that he had tested positive for the virus.
“For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,” Paul said in a statement. “The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined. It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested.”
Paul’s office announced on Sunday that he tested positive for the virus and that he was “feeling fine,” but some senators and aides are angry at him for not doing more to self-quarantine earlier and for potentially exposing senators to the coronavirus. In the wake of Paul’s diagnosis, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah self-quarantined on Sunday.
GOP senators told CNN Paul was in the gym with colleagues Sunday morning, and several pointed out how close Paul had sat to others during Senate lunches in recent days. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas said he saw Paul in the Senate swimming pool Sunday, according to a source in the GOP lunch.
Paul is the first senator to test positive for the virus. The senator had attended a major black-tie social event in Louisville, Kentucky, two weeks ago where several attendees have subsequently tested positive, including the wife of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. His office said he sought to get tested “out of an abundance of caution.”
Following Paul’s statement on Monday, West Virginia Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito told CNN that her fellow senator’s actions concern her because “his office is right next door to mine.”
Asked if Paul owed other senators an apology, she said she would leave it up to him.
“But knowing he had a test outstanding and still continuing to (be in public) — there’s obviously a reason that he got a test,” she said. “That causes a question for me.”
Also among the critics of the way Paul handled himself has been GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said on Sunday and reiterated Monday that it’s “common sense” not to expose oneself until the test has come back.
“Now, it’s not time to beat Rand up — I hope he gets better. But from this we all need to learn. I mean, this is a case study of I think what not to do between the time you’re tested and your results come back,” the South Carolina senator said Monday.
Graham himself tested negative for the virus earlier this month after potentially coming into contact with a Brazilian official who had contracted the virus.
Two Senate sources told CNN on Sunday that Paul’s fellow senators are especially frustrated with him because he is also a doctor, and they feel that he should have known better — noting that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and other members of Congress self-quarantined in recent weeks after being exposed to someone who tested positive.
“Furious. Staff too. Everyone,” a senator told CNN in a text message, describing the view among him and his colleagues.
This story has been updated to include Graham’s and Capito’s comments from Monday and more of Paul’s statement.