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Utah Sens. Mitt Romney, Mike Lee in quarantine after exposure to senator with COVID-19

By Dennis Romboy, KSL | Updated - Mar. 22, 2020 at 6:35 p.m. | Posted - Mar. 22, 2020 at 4:13 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — Doctors directed Utah Republican Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney to self-quarantine Sunday after being around Sen. Rand Paul, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Lee said on social media that after learning that Paul, R-Ky., tested positive, he consulted with Congress’ attending physician. He said the doctor told him that because he has no symptoms or risk factors, a COVID-19 test was not warranted.

“However, given the timing, proximity, and duration of my exposure to Sen. Paul, he directed me to self-quarantine for 14 days. That means no traveling or voting. But I will continue to make sure Utah’s voice is heard as we shape the federal response to the Coronavirus through phone, text, email and whatever other means are available,” Lee wrote.

Like Lee, Romney said he has no symptoms but will be tested for the virus. He told his Washington, D.C., staff to work from home more than a week ago as a preventative measure.

“Since Sen. Romney sat next to Sen. Paul for extended periods in recent days and consistent with CDC guidance, the attending physician has ordered him to immediately self-quarantine and not to vote on the Senate floor. He has no symptoms but will be tested,” according to Romney’s office.

Romney told reporters he was at lunch with Paul last Friday.

Some on social media criticized Romney seeking a coronavirus test, saying ordinary Americans without symptoms don’t qualify for testing.

Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams tested positive for COVID-19 last Tuesday as did Rep. Marco Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., the first two members of Congress to come down with the virus.

Romney also urged Congress “to pass a relief package as quickly as possible that provides assistance for families, workers and small businesses.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is pushing for a Monday vote in the Senate on an economic rescue package that could total at least $1.5 trillion.

Romney and Lee would not be able to vote on the bill because Senate rules call for votes to be made on the floor.

Last week, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced a bipartisan resolution to amend Senate rules to allow senators to vote remotely during a national crisis.

Durbin and Portman say that during the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may advise against convening the full Senate in the Capitol. The resolution would give the majority and minority leaders the joint authority to allow secure remote voting for up to 30 days. The Senate would have to vote to renew remote voting every 30 days.

Earlier Sunday, Paul became the U.S. senator to test positive for COVID-19.

In a tweet the senator said he is “feeling fine” and is in quarantine.

“He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person,” the tweet said.

Also Sunday, Lee made a plea for the coronavirus relief package to include a “massive,” one-year expansion of the tax deduction for charitable giving.

“It’s not just the for-profit economy that is suffering and will suffer from the COVID outbreak. Civil society — all those millions of non-profits around the country — are getting hammered too,” he posted on Facebook.

Lee said the $300 deduction in the draft proposal is short at least one zero. Americans, he said, are prepared to “go big” with contributions to the national relief effort, but Congress has to help them do it.

“This year, we’re going to *want* all Americans — especially rich ones! — pouring their money into local charities. If there must be a cap, $300,000 or $30,000 makes *much* more sense than $300,” the senator wrote.

Lee said that based on conversations with Republicans and Democrats, he is “morally” certain that there is bipartisan support for a huge-but-temporary, one-year policy fix for the charitable giving deduction.

“This morning, millions are attending virtual church services in their living rooms, praying that this crisis passes. And it will. And when it does, we’re going to need those churches, and all our service orgs, back on the front lines to rebuild and renew our communities,” he wrote.

Dennis Romboy

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