Rand Paul becomes first US senator to test positive for coronavirus

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US Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said on Sunday, becoming the first member of the Senate to announce he has COVID-19, as the number of U.S. cases of the respiratory disease grows.
In a photo taken on Feb 11, 2020, US senator Rand Paul delivers a statement in Washington, DC PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus, his office said in a statement on Sunday (March 22), becoming the first member of the upper chamber of Congress to announce he has Covid-19 as the number of US cases continued to grow.

Paul has no symptoms and was tested out of "abundance of caution" given his recent travels, according to the statement, which comes as the Senate prepared to take up a massive economic relief Bill.

Paul, 57, is feeling fine and isn't aware of any direct contact with any infected person, his Twitter message said.

A follow-up tweet said he expects to be back in the Senate after his quarantine period has ended, and that virtually no staff has had contact with the senator in the past 10 days, when his DC office began working remotely.

Paul is the first US senator, and third member of Congress, known to have become infected.

Other US senators self-quarantined as a precaution in recent weeks, and at least two members of the House of Representatives have also tested positive.

Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and Representative Ben McAdams, Democrat of Utah, last week both revealed they had been diagnosed as positive.

The three join more than 31,000 other Americans known to have the virus, according to a running tally from Johns Hopkins University.

Symptoms of the virus can include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Some 390 have died in the US. Globally, cases have exceeded 328,000 with over 14,000 deaths.

Paul was among a handful of Republican lawmakers on March 18 to oppose a US$100 billion (S$145.48 billion) stimulus package to offset the impact of Covid-19 on the US economy.

The measure was approved 90-8 and signed into law by President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Paul was the lone vote against an US$8 billion emergency spending package aimed at boosting funds for testing and lowering the cost of certain related medical treatments.

He proposed an amendment that offset some of the costs of the legislation with cuts elsewhere, which was rejected.

The senator's father, former Texas Representative Ron Paul, has been one of final holdouts among coronavirus skeptics as the impact of the pandemic has broadened this month and state governments have ramped up their response.

The 2012 Republican presidential candidate penned a column entitled "The Coronavirus Hoax," dated March 16.

"Governments love crises because when the people are fearful they are more willing to give up freedoms for promises that the government will take care of them," the elder Paul wrote.

He termed D Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, "the chief fearmonger of the Trump administration."

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