Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, spoke without a mask at Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing on Monday less than two weeks after he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Lee appeared in person for the hearing and removed his mask while working and making his opening statement just 10 days after he announced that he had tested positive following a White House event to announce Barrett's nomination.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who announced he had tested positive the same day as Lee, on the other hand, appeared at the hearing remotely. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who tested negative but is quarantining after being exposed to Lee, also appeared remotely.
Lee, who vowed to "remain isolated for the next 10 days" when he tested positive, told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he had "gotten the sign-off from the office of the attending physician" and is "no longer contagious." He did not say, however, whether he had actually tested negative for the virus.
A letter from Brian Monahan, the attending physician of the Congress, said that Lee had met the criteria to end his isolation. The letter said that he had no fever for the last 24 hours "and your other symptoms have improved." The letter did not say whether Lee had been tested but does note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "does not recommend" repeat testing for those who have isolated for 10 days and have not had a fever in the past day.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, noted that Lee "could still be infectious."
Senate rules do not require members to wear masks and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who refuses to be tested for the coronavirus, said that the hearing room had been reconfigured to meet CDC guidelines.
Some on the left criticized Graham for holding the hearing while refusing to be tested and Lee for appearing without a mask.
"At least two members of @SenJudiciary have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19—and we have no idea what kind of threat they or others pose to those around them today because they refuse to agree to mandatory testing," said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., a member of the committee.
"This proceeding today is a disgrace. It should not be happening," said Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. "And Mike Lee's mask-less presence and presentation powerfully exemplify the cynical lack of principle that has governed the actions of the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee."
White House chief of staff Mike Meadows was among those seen speaking with Lee at the Capitol on Monday.
Meadows planned to speak to reporters outside of the hearing but changed his mind when reporters objected to him taking his mask off.
Meadows insisted that he was "more than 10 feet away" before putting his mask back on and walking away.
"I'm not going to talk through a mask," he said.
NBC News reporter Josh Lederman pointed out that Meadows was "with Trump in close quarters" throughout the president's coronavirus infection and that "CDC guidelines for essential workers exposed to people with COVID" require them to "wear a ace mask at all times while in the workplace."
"Meadows has been in regular contact with a COVID-19 positive patient," added Washington Post reporter Josh Rogin. "He should be quarantining, not insisting on taking off his mask inside."