After aide tests positive for COVID-19, Alexander in self quarantine

Will lead Monday hearing featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci from his home in Tennessee

By , Daily Memphian Updated: May 10, 2020 7:58 PM CT | Published: May 10, 2020 3:50 PM CT

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee will lead the Monday, May 11, meeting of the Senate Health and Education meeting from quarantine after a member of his staff tested positive Sunday, May 10, for the COVID-19 virus.

David Cleary, chief of staff to Alexander, says the unidentified staffer is recovering at home and doing well.

“Senator Alexander has no symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, May 7,” Cleary said in an email statement Sunday evening. “After discussing this with the Senate’s attending physician, Senator Alexander, out of an abundance of caution, has decided not to return to Washington, D.C., and will self-quarantine in Tennessee for 14 days.”

Most of Alexander’s Washington staff is already working from home, according to Cleary.

The committee hearing Monday is to feature Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health and three other pandemic experts who were also to testify by videoconference.

Earlier Sunday near the end of an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Alexander sported a face mask made in the black-and-red plaid that is a symbol of his past campaigns for Tennessee governor and the Senate as well as a brief bid for the presidency.

In the interview with Alexander speaking remotely from his home in Maryville, Tennessee, he said between now and a technological breakthrough on the COVID-19 virus, the national effort to stop the spread is all about as much testing as possible and more of it.

“What we’ve done is impressive. It’s enough to do what we need to today to reopen,” he said. “But it’s not enough when 35,000 kids and faculty show up on the University of Tennessee campus in August.”

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Alexander is pushing for what he has termed a “shark tank” of “early concept ideas” including more comprehensive and easy-to-use tests through new technology that vastly increases the ability to test large numbers of people.

“The (Trump) administration has an amazingly ambitious goal of 100 million vaccines by September and 300 million by December. I have no idea if we can reach that,” Alexander said. “If you take a test and you know you don’t have COVID-19 and you know everybody around you took a test that same day, you are going to have enough confidence to go back to work and back to school.”

Alexander also expressed reservations Sunday about another round of federal relief funding that is taking shape in the Capitol.

“There’s not enough money to help everybody hurt when you shut down the government. The only solution is test, trace, isolate, treatments and vaccines. The faster we can do testing is the only solution to this,” he said. “So, we have to reopen the economy. We have to do it carefully. We have let people go back to work and earn a living. And I don’t see us being to appropriate much more money to help provide a counter to that.”

Alexander also faulted President Donald Trump’s decision last week to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act of the Obama administration against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

The lawsuit the court is hearing is one brought by several state governments led by Texas. The legal challenge came back to life in December when a federal appeals court struck down part of what is also known as “Obamacare” and sent the case back to the Texas federal judge whose original ruling would have invalidated the ACA entirely.

“I thought the Justice Department argument was really flimsy,” Alexander said. “What they are arguing is that when we voted to get rid of the individual mandate, we voted to get rid of Obamacare. I don’t know one single Senator that thought that.”

The Supreme Court is not expected to rule on the appeal until after the November presidential general election.

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do


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Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city and county government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.


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