On Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul became the first United States senator to test positive for the coronavirus now sweeping through the rest of America. While Paul is asymptomatic and appears likely to continue to be so, Paul's announcement caused a stir among his fellow senators because Paul had been mingling among them—even using the Senate gym and pool that morning, while awaiting his test results. Only when the test came back positive did Paul remove himself from the building and enter self-quarantine.
Paul is responding to the outrage at the apparent selfishness of suspecting he had been exposed to the virus but was still going about his routine until his test came back positive in the prototypical Rand Paul way. He released an extremely snotty statement.
Paul's statement, which can be found here, attempts to defend his behavior. He claims we was tested only out of caution, that he "felt it was highly unlikely that I was positive since I have had no symptoms," and that he did not have "contact" with anyone who tested positive. He further insists that he had "zero contact or proximity" with the two confirmed COVID-19 cases at a specific museum fundraiser he and they both attended, "even from a distance." Therefore, he says, he "was not recommended for testing by health officials."
All of this may be true. But this is Rand Paul, and he was quickly going to go into full asshole mode. "For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol. The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined. It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested."
(The current guidelines were put in place because the tests are still, even now, being rationed, with reports of numerous symptomatic patients and healthcare workers having been refused tests after Trump's team botched even that most basic of pandemic preparedness efforts. As an aside, Paul's lung was damaged when an angry neighbor attacked him in a yardwork dispute.)
"Perhaps it is too much to ask that we simply have compassion for our fellow Americans who are sick or fearful of becoming so. Thousands of people want testing. Many, like David Newman of The Walking Dead, are sick with flu symptoms and are being denied testing. This makes no sense."
(While Paul is asking for compassion, the Republican Senate has slow-walked actual relief to COVID-19 affected communities and healthcare institutions. And it is now tying insufficient funds for those groups to corporate bailouts to be administered at the sole discretion of an administration the Republican Senate immunized only weeks ago from charges stemming from the White House blocking military aid to a foreign nation unless that nation would agree to operate to the benefit of their upcoming reelection bid.)
"The broader the testing and the less finger-pointing we have, the better."
As Rand Paul defends himself from anger directed at him mostly by other members of the Senate, there is a new push by the White House, by conservative pundits, and by his colleagues to consider easing "social distancing" orders in an attempt to limit economic damage—at the expense of considerably more American dead. Undoing attempts to limit virus spread now would likely result in double-crises, with both the flooding of U.S. hospitals with patients who cannot be treated due to shortages of supplies and the economic damage of quarantines imposed immediately afterward, after it has already become (yet again) too late.
The testing, however, has not been solved. The shortages of masks, ventilators, and other supplies has not been solved. The administration is struggling with the logistics of even the most urgent new needs, further ensuring the coming two months will be as deadly as is now the case in virus-ravaged Italy.
It is absolutely the time for finger-pointing. Finger-pointing is the only thing remaining that can goad an incompetent White House and Rand Paul's thoroughly corrupt and self-serving party into saving American lives other than their own.
Rand Paul himself sought to block the first of lawmaker's efforts to combat the virus: Now he is lecturing others on "compassion" because his feelings have been hurt. Other Americans are suffering far more.