Kentucky Republican was reportedly using Senate gym just hours before positive test result
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com
WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is pushing back against criticism that he may have put others in the Senate in danger by continuing with his work as a senator for nearly a week while awaiting the results of a coronavirus test that came back positive.
Paul was reportedly seen working out in a Senate gym on Sunday morning, just hours before he learned he had tested positive for the virus and went into self-quarantine.
In a statement issued Monday, Paul acknowledged he took the coronavirus test on March 16 and did not self-quarantine while waiting for the results, which came back on March 22.
However, Paul said he had no reason to believe that he had been exposed to coronavirus prior to the positive result and had only been tested as a precaution because of a lung injury he suffered during an attack by a neighbor in 2017.
“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. “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 also said that while he did attend a March 7 museum fundraiser in Louisville that was also attended by two people who later tested positive for coronavirus, he did not have contact with either of them, and his decision to get tested was unrelated to his attendance at the benefit.
“The event was a large affair of hundreds of people spread throughout the museum,” he said. “I was not considered to be at risk since I never interacted with the two individuals even from a distance and was not recommended for testing by health officials.”
Paul said he was “at a higher risk for serious complications” because he had part of his lung removed after he developed complications from rib fractures he suffered when he was attacked by a neighbor, Rene Boucher, outside of his Bowling Green home in 2017.
In his statement, Paul also renewed his call for more immediate, widespread testing of people who do not yet show any symptoms of coronavirus.
“The broader the testing and the less finger-pointing we have, the better,” he said.
Paul’s positive test prompted two fellow senators who had contact with him — Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah — to enter self-quarantine, which means five Republican senators are now out of action as Congress grapples with emergency coronavirus legislation.
In his statement, Paul did not confirm or deny reports that he swam and worked out in the Senate gym on Sunday before the results of his coronavirus test came back.
Politico reported that one of Paul’s colleagues, Jerry Moran of Kansas, told colleagues a Republican lunch on Sunday that he had seen Paul using the facilities. That report led another senator, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to blast Paul’s behavior as “absolutely irresponsible.”
“You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results,” she said in a tweet. “It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus.”
Paul’s office responded by noting that he had left the Senate “immediately” after the diagnosis and entered self-quarantine.
Paul’s actions with regard to coronavirus are also being scrutinized because of his background — he is a graduate of the Duke University School of Medicine who worked for 20 years as an ophthalmologist before being elected to the Senate.
In an interview on MSNBC Monday, Ezekiel Emanuel, former chief of bioethics at the National Institutes of Health and health policy adviser in the Obama administration, accused Paul of a “lack of leadership” for not going into self-quarantine until his test results came back.
“Multiple times Rand Paul has sort of violated his basic oath of being a physician, that he should model good, healthy behaviors,” Emanuel said.
In addition to Paul, Romney and Lee, two other Republican senators — Rick Scott of Florida and Cory Gardner of Colorado — are in self-quarantine after coming into contact with people who tested positive for the virus.
That leaves just 48 GOP members in the upper chamber who are able to vote on coronavirus legislation because Senate rules require senators to be present in person in order to vote.
Paul was among just eight senators who voted against an emergency coronavirus funding bill that passed March 18 and the only senator who opposed an earlier coronavirus funding measure that passed on March 5.
In a letter to his constituents sent over the weekend, Paul vowed to continue to oppose “more spending, more debt, and more mandates on the American people.”