The coronavirus outbreak gripping the White House spread to Capitol Hill on Friday morning, raising the prospect that the virus could disrupt Republicans’ plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the November election.
Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary committee — Mike Lee of Utah, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina – revealed Friday that they have tested positive for the potentially deadly disease.
Their positive diagnoses raised concerns that the virus had spread at a Saturday Rose Garden ceremony, at which Trump announced he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
On Saturday morning, Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he has tested positive for COVID-19. His office said he is not experiencing symptoms.
The senators are among six people who attended the event, which featured few masks and little social distancing, who have since tested positive for the virus.
Trump, the first lady, and top Trump aide Hope Hicks all attended the event and subsequently tested positive, showing symptoms in the expected five- to seven-day window following the event. Also Friday, the president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John Jenkins, announced he, too, had tested positive for COVID-19. Jenkins attended the Saturday Rose Garden ceremony.
Earlier in the week, Jenkins sent a letter to university students and staff apologizing for not wearing a mask during Saturday’s Rose Garden ceremony for Barrett, who is a Notre Dame graduate and law professor.
Video of the event also shows Lee unmasked and hugging other attendees.
Both Lee and Tillis said they would isolate for 10 days. Lee vowed in a statement that he would “be back to work in time to join my Judiciary Committee colleagues in advancing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”
While the Centers for Disease Control recommend those who test positive should isolate for at least 10 days after their symptoms appear, the agency said doctors may recommend longer isolation periods depending on the severity of the disease.
Guidelines issued by the CDC dictate that Barrett should quarantine for 14 days, because she met with Lee in person (and without masks) a few days ago.
Barrett was diagnosed with the virus over the summer but has since recovered, The Washington Post reported Friday — information that had not previously been made public. The science on immunity following recovery is unsettled. Though public health experts generally believe recovery from COVID-19 confers some immunity and the World Health Organization has said repeated infections are not common, researchers in Hong Kong recently reported evidence that a second infection is possible.
Since receiving the Supreme Court nomination, Barrett is being tested for the virus daily and had