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Ron Johnson Tests Positive For COVID-19

The Senator Said He Is Not Experiencing Any Symptoms

Ron Johnson
Senate Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., questions witnesses during a hearing on 2020 census on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo  

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19, telling reporters Saturday that he’s feeling no symptoms and he took the test out of an abundance of caution.

His announcement came roughly a day after President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 and the morning after Johnson was a featured speaker at an Ozaukee County GOP fundraiser.

“I never developed any symptoms,” Johnson told reporters in a conference call Saturday morning. “I still have never developed any symptoms. I feel fine. I feel completely normal.”

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Johnson said he decided to get tested for COVID-19 when he was on a Friday morning conference call with other senators after they learned that U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, had tested positive for COVID-19.

“On that call, a couple senators said ‘Maybe I’ll go get checked,’” Johnson told reporters. “Which I thought was a pretty good idea.”

Johnson said he was tested for COVID-19 Friday on his way to an evening fundraiser for the Republican Party of Ozaukee County.

According to Johnson, he wore a mask at the event, and was “at least 12 feet away” from anyone as he spoke.

“I truly did not anticipate testing positive,” Johnson said. “So there was no reason to quarantine.”

Johnson said he had already planned to make Friday night’s fundraiser his last of the season before he got tested so that he could be ready for the Senate’s U.S. Supreme Court nomination hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

In addition to Johnson and Lee, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R- North Carolina, also tested positive for COVID-19, leading Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to postpone the U.S. Senate’s floor proceedings until Oct. 19. McConnell said Barrett’s confirmation hearings would begin Oct. 12 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Asked Saturday whether the spread of COVID-19 among U.S. senators would endanger Barrett’s vote, Johnson said it would not.

“Not according to our leader, McConnell,” Johnson said. “There’s absolutely no reason we can’t use technology to hold the hearings, report that out and then get us all back there to vote.”

While Johnson said he wasn’t sure where he contracted COVID-19, he said his attending physician suspected it came from Johnson’s chief of staff, Tony Blando.

According to Johnson, Blando tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 14. Johnson said as soon as he learned, he went into quarantine in Oshkosh until Sept. 29. He said he was tested twice for COVID-19, and those tests came back negative.

He said he returned to Washington D.C. after his quarantine and gathered for lunch with Senate Republicans, “three people to a table, socially distanced.” He said Senators wore masks to the meeting but took them off while they ate.

Johnson’s staff had said in a statement earlier Saturday that the senator had been exposed to someone who has since tested positive for COVID-19 after he returned to Washington D.C. on Sept. 29.

Saturday was originally scheduled to be the day when Trump visited Wisconsin for rallies in La Crosse and Green Bay. Both cities are COVID-19 hotspots as Wisconsin grapples with what is by far its worst outbreak since the pandemic began.

When asked whether scheduling those rallies was appropriate, Johnson declined to say.

“I mean, you continue to learn as you go through this process,” he said.

Asked whether the president would schedule similar events in Wisconsin if he’s doing better later this month, Johnson indicated that he likely would.

“My guess is the president’s going to want to continue to campaign,” Johnson said.

Johnson was also asked about the “optics” of Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature filing a brief this week in support of a conservative lawsuit that seeks to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate.

Johnson said he believes masks can mitigate the pandemic, but he thinks they should be voluntary.

“I’m not for mask mandates,” Johnson said. “I’m for individual responsibility.”

Also Saturday, Johnson’s Wisconsin colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, posted to Twitter that she had tested negative for COVID-19.

“Given the outbreak in the Senate, I was tested on Friday and I am pleased to report that my result was negative,” Baldwin said in a tweet. “I again urge everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing to protect the health and safety of yourself and others.”

In the state Legislature, the Waukesha Freeman reported that state Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, had tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 27. Allen told the newspaper he will remain in isolation until at least Oct. 6.

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