Sen. Mike Lee of Utah didn’t want to let the fact that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 less than two weeks ago prevent him from appearing in-person at the Justice Committee confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett. And it also didn’t stop him from taking off his mask to give his opening statement. It wasn’t just to speak either, Lee reportedly worked without a mask for several minutes before it was even his turn to speak. He did put his mask back on when he was done speaking.
The mere presence of Lee in the committee hearing surprised many considering he had announced Oct. 2 that a COVID-19 test he had taken a day earlier when he was experiencing symptoms came back positive. At the time, he vowed to “remain isolated for the next 10 days.” In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday, Lee said he had received the all-clear from his doctor to participate in the hearing. “I’ve gotten the sign-off from the office of the attending physician. I’ve gone through the appropriate number of days, and I’ve been keeping my temperature under control, and I’m no longer contagious,” Lee told Hewitt. One thing the Utah senator did not clarify is whether he has actually tested negative for COVID-19. When reporters asked him about that on Monday he didn’t answer. “I feel great,” he told reporters.
Amid increasing questions about his presence at the hearing, Lee released a letter he received from Dr. Brian Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, that strongly suggests the senator has not received a follow-up test. The letter details how the senator has “met criteria to end COVID-19 isolation for those with mild to moderate disease.” Monahan details that it has been more than 10 days since the symptoms began and the senator hasn’t had a fever for more than 24 hours. “The CDC does not recommend repeat SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing if these criteria are met,” Monahan writes in the letter. The CDC says that for most people infected with COVID-19 isolation “can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms.”
Other senators are attending the hearing virtually, including Sen. Thom Tillis, who announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 a few hours after Lee. Both Lee and Tillis attended the Sept. 26 White House ceremony to unveil President Donald Trump’s nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court. Dr. Anthony Fauci recently called the ceremony a “superspreader event.”
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