By inadvertently spreading the coronavirus around the U.S. Capitol for at least a week, Rand Paul has turned the world’s greatest deliberative body into the nation’s highest-profile vector for the spread of the pandemic.
The senator from Kentucky was worried enough about being exposed to the virus that he got a still-hard-to-obtain test for it. But while he was waiting for the results, he decided to keep showing up to the Senate. He went to group lunches with his Republican colleagues, took the Capitol elevators, talked with reporters, and worked out in the somehow-still-open Senate gym. Yesterday morning, he was doing laps in the pool there.
By yesterday afternoon, Paul had announced that he had tested positive. Graciously, he said that he would start self-quarantining.
Paul is exactly what we’ve been told to worry about. For all the laughing and hate-tweeting directed at spring breakers saying they don’t think the coronavirus is a big deal, they’re at worst dumb, selfish, underinformed 20-somethings. Paul is a medical doctor (he worked as an ophthalmologist before first being elected in 2012). He is a senator. He is an elected official. People look to him for leadership.
In the Senate, the average age is 62.9. There are five senators in their 80s—and there will soon be six, when Vermont’s Patrick Leahy has his birthday at the end of the month. There are mothers and fathers of young children in the chamber. There are senators who have close family members with conditions that make them especially susceptible to the virus, such as Utah’s Mitt Romney, whose wife has MS.