North Dakota senators not planning to quarantine after Trump's positive COVID-19 test
In meetings on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 1, Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer met with Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and White House officials at the U.S. Capitol building.
BISMARCK — Both of North Dakota's U.S. senators said they believe they are in the clear from COVID-19 after President Donald Trump announced early Friday that he and several other White House members tested positive for the virus.
In separate meetings on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 1, Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer met with Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and White House officials at the U.S. Capitol building, prompting speculation over whether the senators were close enough to the president's circle to catch the virus.
Trump tweeted early Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive after White House advisor Hope Hicks was confirmed positive on Thursday evening.
Trump spent time in close proximity with Barrett when he announced her nomination last weekend. But Barrett reported a negative test for the virus on Friday, and both Hoeven and Cramer said they don't think their exposure levels to the White House team warrant going into quarantine.
On a call Friday morning with members of the North Dakota media, Cramer said his office immediately looked into his exposure levels after hearing the news about the president. He said he attended a Senate luncheon on Wednesday alongside some White House officials, but added that he didn't get "within 20 yards" of the president's team. He also said he did not believe he was in close enough proximity with White House officials during Thursday's meeting with Barrett to put him at risk.
"There's really no CDC guideline or any other guideline that would think that I have either a requirement or even really a need to be concerned about my exposure to COVID-19 as a result of my meeting yesterday with Judge (Amy) Coney Barrett," Cramer said.
Hoeven's team first told The Forum that the senator did not plan to quarantine or take extra precautions following a morning consultation with the Senate physician.
But after Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who met with Barrett and White House team members on Tuesday, reported a positive COVID-19 test later on Friday morning, Hoeven decided to get tested. His result came back negative later in the day.
Hoeven spokesperson Kami Capener said the senator did not recall coming into close proximity with Lee, but decided to get tested "out of an abundance of caution."
Responding to a question about getting tested himself, Cramer said only that he gets screened for COVID-19 almost daily and has never tested positive before.
If the Washington outbreak reaches multiple members of the Senate, it could throw a wrench into the fast-tracked confirmation process for Barrett, which has little margin for error if Republicans are going to seat the conservative judge on the Supreme Court bench ahead of Election Day.
Trump has often downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic that's killed over 208,000 Americans. Cramer said he's not sure whether the president, who he considers a close friend, will change his tone on the virus after contracting it himself.
"It almost seems like he's impenetrable," Cramer said. "I think he's been pretty balanced, frankly, but that doesn't mean he's immune. But we'll see. This will be an interesting experiment in some respects."
Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.