Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee has COVID-19; ex-Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway also tests positive days after Rose Garden ceremony
(Photo courtesy of Sen. Mike Lee's office) Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett meets with Utah Sen. Mike Lee in his office on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020.
Sen. Mike Lee announced Friday that he has the coronavirus, taking a test just two days after meeting face to face — and without masks — with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
However, the White House said
that Barrett herself tested negative for COVID-19 on Friday. The Washington Post also said
Barrett tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year but has since recovered.
North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, and former Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway were also at the Rose Garden ceremony and announced Friday evening that they had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Utah Republican appears to be experiencing mild symptoms so far.
Lee put out a statement on Twitter saying he thought he had allergies Thursday morning, but “out of an abundance of caution” got tested and received a positive diagnosis. He said he’ll remain in isolation for 10 days. It does not appear anyone else on his staff has contracted the virus. Two were tested and got negative results.
“Like so many other Utahns," the Republican senator wrote, “I will now spend part of 2020 working from home.”
Lee becomes the second member of the Utah delegation to have the disease. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah
, was one of the first members of Congress to contract the coronavirus in the spring. McAdams spent eight days in the hospital because of difficulty breathing.
Lee, in his statement, assured Senate leaders he’d be back in time for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court. Those hearings are slated to start Oct. 12. Lee’s 10 days in isolation would end Oct. 11.
There are concerns that the senator may have been contagious around his fellow committee members and the Supreme Court nominee herself.
Last weekend, Lee attended the Rose Garden event where Trump announced his nomination of Barrett. Video shows him carrying a mask, but not always wearing it. He chatted with and hugged attendees afterward.
Lee met with Barrett on Tuesday, wearing masks at the start of their conversation. They took the masks off for photos, where they stood closer than the recommended 6 feet.
On Thursday, the day he started feeling symptoms, Lee attended a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting
. The meeting did appear to offer distance between the senators and some wore face masks, though Lee was not one of them. The Utah senator was tested after that meeting.
Shortly after Lee’s announcement, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., issued a statement calling for a delay in Barrett’s hearing.
“The unfortunate news about the infection of our colleague Sen. Mike Lee makes even more clear that health and safety must guide the schedule for all Senate activities, including hearings,” the statement from the Democratic leaders reads. “In addition, there is bipartisan agreement that a virtual confirmation hearing for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench is not an acceptable substitute.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, however, indicated in a tweet about Lee that he plans to move ahead with hearings as planned.
After saying he had talked to Lee on Friday and wished him a speedy recovery, the South Carolina Republican added, “Look forward to welcoming him back to the @senjudiciary
to proceed with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barret on October 12.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also said Republicans foresee no delays with Barrett’s confirmation.
He tweeted that he talked to Trump on Friday and told him “how impressed Senators are with the qualifications of Judge Barrett. Full steam ahead with the fair, thorough, timely process that the nominee, the Court, & the country deserve.”
Health experts say a person with the coronavirus is often contagious days before feeling symptoms. Lee now joins the more than 75,000 Utahns who have contracted the virus.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted get-well wishes to his Utah colleague — and warned others that his contracting the disease shows the need to continue to wear masks.
“Wishing my friend @SenMikeLee
a speedy recovery," Romney wrote. “As Utah continues to see high numbers of new cases, I encourage all Utahns to continue following public health guidance, including wearing masks and practicing proper social distancing.”
Reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this article.