The last time there was a congregation of GOP bigwigs gathered together to help push judge Amy Coney Barrett into Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's now vacant, but still-warm Supreme Court seat, it turned into a catastrophic super-spreader event that helped disperse the coronavirus throughout the White House, congress, and beyond.
Now, two weeks later, Barrett's first day of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee have once again run the risk of becoming a viral petri dish, with Utah Republican Mike Lee pointedly not covering his face during the indoor proceedings — despite having tested positive for COVID-19 just 10 days earlier.
In a statement posted to his website later on Monday, Lee justified his physical presence at the hearing by sharing a letter from a congressional doctor he claimed had "[recommended] end to isolation."
However, the letter simply states that Lee had "met criteria to end COVID-19 isolation for those with mild to moderate disease." Notably, that conclusion was reached, per Dr. Brian Monahan, attending physician of the United States Congress, based on the fact that "[Lee] reported that all other symptoms resolved as of Oct. 11, 2020."
In other words, while Lee was not the only person not to wear a mask at all times during the hearing, it seems he was the only one was back in a Senate chamber, partially mask-less, less than two weeks after he'd tested positive for COVID-19, simply based on what he'd told his doctor — without actually submitting for any further tests. Indeed, Barrett herself was masked, after confirming she had also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this summer.
Furthermore, Lee is already being eyed as a potential vector for the spread of coronavirus within Congress, after California Rep. Salud Carbajal (D) announced he had also tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with Lee. Lee's office claimed the senator had not come in physical contact with anyone following his diagnosis announcement, but did not clarify if he and Carbajal had been in contact before his disclosure. The two reportedly live in the same apartment building.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, also on hand for Monday's confirmation hearing, similarly refused to cover his face while speaking indoors.
Chatting with reporters in a hallway outside the hearing chamber, Meadows claimed he'd be happy to speak, but then walked away saying "I’m not going to talk through a mask."