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Coronavirus: Rand Paul becomes first senator to test positive for coronavirus

Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday announced he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first senator and third member of Congress known to have contracted the virus.

And Senate GOP leaders will now be short five Republicans during a key procedural vote on a massive economic rescue package to deal with the coronavirus crisis, in part due to Paul's infection.

Paul who has been working from the Capitol in recent days  said he was tested out of caution “due to his extensive travel and events" and is not showing symptoms of the highly infectious virus. Later, his staff said that Paul had attended an event where two people tested positive, though the senator did not recall specific interactions with either of them.

Paul’s infection quickly reverberated throughout the Senate, where lawmakers were surprised by his diagnosis as they pushed ahead with a massive package to rescue the economy from the outbreak. The Kentucky senator had been interacting with his colleagues just days prior, voting on the floor, sitting in meetings and speaking to reporters in hallways.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are now self-quarantining after close interactions with Paul. Lee's office said Sunday that the Capitol's attending physician directed him to stay isolated for 14 days, a recommendation Romney also received.

That means Lee and Romney, along with Paul, cannot vote on any legislation on the floor this week as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempts to keep his conference together on the economic rescue bill.

Several senators, including Susan Collins (R-Maine), however, said the chamber should take an extended leave from the Capitol after clearing the latest relief package.

“I believe that our first obligation is to finish our work. After that, I think it would be wise to accelerate the break that was scheduled for April,” Collins told reporters.

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