Social media turned Sen. Rand Paul into Public Enemy #1 this week when it was revealed that, between the time he took a coronavirus test and getting back the positive result, he took little effort to distance himself from his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
Indeed, reports suggested that he went in the opposite direction, using the time to take full advantage of the Senate gym and the Capitol Hill swimming pool while waiting for his results. Commenters – particularly those already predisposed to loathe the Kentucky libertarian – were merciless in their assessment of Paul’s actions, calling him selfish and ignorant for putting others in danger.
On Wednesday, in an op-ed for USA Today, Paul explained why he took no extra precautions after taking the coronavirus test.
“I did not quarantine while awaiting a coronavirus test because I did not meet the criteria for quarantine. In fact, I did not meet the current criteria for even being tested, much less quarantined,” Paul explained. “I have not had an encounter with anyone that health officials recommended quarantining or testing.”
The Republican senator went on to note that he’d only taken the test because he and his wife had traveled extensively in the preceding weeks, well before the CDC came out with the social distancing recommendations that are now in effect. He said that he had no symptoms and did not come into contact with known carriers of the disease. The only reason he decided to go the extra mile and take the test, he wrote, was because he suffers from diminished lung capacity due to a surgery seven months ago.
“For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a T, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,” he emphasized. “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.
“Instead of hounding people who got tested and then quarantined themselves, perhaps we need to broaden the testing and quit the finger-wagging,” he concluded.
Well, Paul may or may not have brought on his own criticism in this instance, but his circumstances are the perfect argument for why we need to expand testing beyond our current rigid rules. The biggest problem with the situation right now is that we really have no clue about how many cases are out there. In certain areas, they are still using outdated criteria like whether or not you’ve traveled internationally to determine whether you get a test. And it’s because we’re flying blind that drastic measures like a partial economic shutdown are necessary.
Get the tests up and running like they should be, and maybe we can all get back to work (and to the gym, and to the swimming pools) as soon as possible.