Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office announced in a tweet on Sunday.
“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine,” the tweet said. “He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.”
—Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
Paul is the first US senator to test positive for the illness. His office did not indicate when Paul was tested or how he was able to acquire a test given that he was asymptomatic.
USA Today reporter Christal Hayes also noted that Paul attended a Republican Senate luncheon on Tuesday with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and he was on the Senate floor Wednesday to vote on a coronavirus bill.
The World Health Organization designated the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, a pandemic on March 11. To date, 318,662 people around the world have tested positive for the virus, and 13,672 have died.
The US now ranks fourth globally in the number of confirmed cases, after China, Italy, and Spain. As of Sunday afternoon, there are 27,004 cases, and 347 patients have died. The vast majority of the infections are in New York, California, and Washington.
Paul published an op-ed in The Hill earlier this week calling for “aggressive but prudent actions” to combat the rapid spread of the disease.
The Kentucky lawmaker wrote that he opposes the nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package working its way through Congress to provide relief for the businesses and individuals hardest hit by the public health crisis. “We simply cannot sustain that as an economy,” Paul wrote.
Instead, he advocated for proposals that would expand the availability of essential medical supplies for health care workers, like masks and ventilators. Paul also called for a payroll tax holiday and for an expansion of the federal government’s unemployment system “to cover the most severely affected and offer immediate leave for those who need it due to the coronavirus.”
President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus last week, triggering the Stafford Act, which allows for more federal aid to states and municipalities. Trump said his decision would open up access to $50 billion in aid money for US states and territories.
The president also approved a major disaster declaration for New York on Friday evening, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to allocate billions in federal emergency aid for the state.
Trump has faced sharp criticism in recent weeks, however, for what critics described as a slow and inefficient response to the spread of the disease.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that US intelligence agencies were cautioning Trump about an impending pandemic as early as January, but the president refused to heed their warnings.
“The system was blinking red,” one US official with access to the intelligence told The Post. Agencies “have been warning on this since January.”
“Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were — they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it,” the official added.
The intelligence documents were disseminated to White House officials as well as congressional lawmakers and their staff. Congress also began receiving daily briefings on the virus earlier this year as it rapidly spread across the globe.
By the end of January and beginning of February, a majority of the intelligence contained in Trump’s daily briefings was about the coronavirus, according to The Post.