The Utah Republican arrived in the hearing room wearing a blue surgical mask and could be seen fist-bumping GOP colleagues on the Senate panel. Lee removed his mask to deliver his opening statement and put it back on when he finished his remarks.
Lee said he was cleared by the Attending Physician of Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, after he self-reported his symptoms had subsided. Lee posted the doctor's letter saying he no longer needs to be in isolation for the virus. “Based on current CDC guidelines, you have met criteria to end COVID-19 isolation for those with mild to moderate disease," the letter said.
The doctor said Lee reported “remaining but improving fatigue” but has had no fever for at least 24 hours. Monahan's letter also said Lee reported on Sunday that “other symptoms have improved.” The letter notes it has been more than 10 days “since symptom onset,” though it is not known when Lee last tested negative for COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms can generally discontinue isolation "10 days after symptom onset and resolution of fever for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications, and with improvement of other symptoms.” The CDC also cautions that those who have had severe cases of the virus should isolate for 20 days.
CDC protocols call for people who have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 to stay at home and avoid contact with others for 14 days.
Lee was one of two senators on the Judiciary Committee to test positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 2 after attending the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event announcing President Donald Trump's nomination of Barrett. The other affected senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, attended the hearing remotely.
The White House event for Barrett, in which most of the audience did not wear masks, has been labeled a “superspreader” for the coronavirus. More than two dozen people linked to the event contracted COVID-19, including President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and several top administration officials.
White House Outbreak: Tracking Who's Tested Positive in Trump's Orbit
Below is a running list of who in President Donald Trump’s orbit has tested positive for COVID-19 so far and those who have not. A negative test does not indicate that an individual is in the clear. These results could be a false negative, which are common in people who've been infected with the virus during the first few days after exposure.
Source: NBC News
Barrett and her husband, Jesse, tested positive for the virus earlier this year and recovered, two administration officials have said. The couple did not wear masks at the Rose Garden ceremony.
While reports of reinfection in COVID-19 victims are rare, the CDC recommends that even people who recover from the disease continue to wear masks, stay distanced and follow other precautions.
Democrats, many of whom have been critical of Barrett, seized on the virus announcements to call for a delay in the hearings. But, Republicans want Barrett confirmed before the presidential election. While the outbreak among lawmakers forced a temporary delay in floor action in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared the confirmation process was going “full steam ahead."
Several other senators who either attended the White House ceremony or interacted with officials who tested positive, were participating in the hearings remotely. Senators cannot vote virtually, however, so Republicans would need a full slate of committee members to approve the nomination shortly after the hearings and all of their senators on the floor for a final confirmation vote, which they hope will happen the last week of October.