Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will self-quarantine for 14 days after a staffer in his office tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office announced Sunday evening.
Alexander’s chief of staff David Cleary said in a statement that the Republican senator tested negative for the virus on May 7 and hasn’t shown any symptoms, but “out of an abundance of caution, has decided not to return to Washington, DC, and will self-quarantine in Tennessee for 14 days.”
“Almost all of the senator’s Washington, DC, staff are working from home, and there is no need for any other staff member to self-quarantine,” Cleary said, noting that the staffer who tested positive is “recovering at home and is doing well.”
Alexander, the GOP chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, will still chair the committee’s hearing on Tuesday by video conference, the statement said.
In fact, all of the witnesses set to participate in that hearing – centered around the federal government’s response to the virus – will testify remotely.
The hearing was already going to feature remote testimony from Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, both of whom are self-quarantining following potential exposures to the virus last week.
The other two witnesses – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services – had been planning to appear in person but will now do so remotely.
That shift comes after Fauci told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Saturday that he would begin a “modified quarantine” after a potential exposure to the virus.
“After consulting with Dr. Fauci, and in an abundance of caution for our witnesses, senators, and the staff, all four Administration witnesses will appear by videoconference due to these unusual circumstances,” Alexander said in a statement earlier Sunday.
He said he consulted with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Saturday about making a change to administration policies. The administration had previously opposed having its officials testify remotely.
The upcoming hearing will give senators on the panel a chance to hear “about what federal, state and local governments are doing to help Americans go back to work and back to school as rapidly and safely as possible,” according to a release from the committee.
Alexander had previously called for expanded testing for lawmakers to protect the people they might infect – particularly before they return back to their states.
“Most everyone I see is wearing a mask, maybe, maybe some were not,” he said. “I know that senators, even when we see each other, we stay six feet apart. We’re practicing, by and large, the protocols.”
CNN’s Manu Raju, Dana Bash, Nicky Robertson, Devan Cole and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.