Sen. Mike Lee appears in-person at Barrett hearing after Covid diagnosis

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Sen. Mike Lee, who tested positive for Covid-19 less than two weeks ago, appeared in-person Monday for the first day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

When the Utah Republican arrived in the hearing room Monday morning, he was wearing a blue surgical mask and could be seen fist-bumping his GOP colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He also briefly exchanged words with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Lee removed his mask when it was his turn to address the hearing with an opening statement, but immediately put it back on when he finished speaking.

Lee was one of two GOP senators, along with North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, who contracted the coronavirus in the days after attending a crowded White House Rose Garden ceremony on Sept. 26, where President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A mask-less Lee could be seen embracing other attendees at the ceremony — which was accompanied by indoor receptions and has since been described as a “superspreader event” by Dr. Antony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

Lee said he began experiencing symptoms similar to allergies on Oct. 1 and was subsequently tested for the coronavirus. He received his positive results later that day, and said he would enter 10 days of quarantine.

Other senators who came into contact with Lee, including Texas Republican Ted Cruz, appeared at Monday’s hearing from a remote location after deciding to quarantine for 14 days, per CDC guidelines.

Shortly after the hearing began Monday, Lee told a local Utah radio station that he felt “great” and had been “cleared” to attend earlier in the morning by the Capitol’s attending physician, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “Good as new, ready to go, and am excited for today’s hearing,” he said.

In a letter from the attending physician released by the senator’s office Monday, Dr. Brian Monahan wrote that Lee had “met criteria to end COVID-19 isolation for those with mild to moderate disease.”

“Specifically, it has been greater than 10 days since symptom onset, you have had no fever in absence of fever reducing medication for at least 24 hours, and your other symptoms have improved,” Monahan wrote. “The CDC does not recommend repeat SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing if these criteria are met.”

The CDC recommends that people who have tested positive for Covid-19 isolate for at least 10 days, and perhaps longer if they still have symptoms.

Democrats, ahead of the hearing, called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to require coronavirus testing for senators. Graham, citing guidance from the congressional physician, rejected those requests.

Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.

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