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Coronavirus Task Force Doctor Did Not Meet Guidelines For Test, But Got One Anyway

One of the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said she had a "little low-grade fever" over the weekend and stayed home from work that day.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force response coordinator, said she went to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center late Saturday night and got tested. The test came back was negative.

"So actually [it was] probably a [gastrointestinal] thing," she said at a task force briefing with President Trump looking on. "But, you know, I'm meticulous. I'm a physician. I looked it up."

She said she stayed home an extra day, Sunday. "That's how we protect each other."

Trump seemed surprised by Birx's remarks and thanked her for the revelation.

Birx said that each person "has to be responsible," because "there is a level of asymptomatic or mild spread" going on in many communities.

She did not say whether she had had contact with a person who had tested positive for the virus or whether she had any other symptoms other than gastrointestinal symptoms. As such, she did not meet the CDC's current guidelines for testing.

Birx was responding a question about why Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was able to get a test even though he apparently did not meet the CDC's criteria for a test. He revealed over the weekend that he had tested positive and would be self-isolating. Paul is the first U.S. senator to test positive for COVID-19.

In a tweet, Paul's office said he was "feeling fine" and was tested "out of an abundance of caution." As such, without symptoms and without a known contact with someone who has the virus, he did not meet the CDC guidelines but he got a test anyway.

Birx said that if Paul was practicing social distancing, he presented no risk to others, including senators. Nevertheless, Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney of Utah are self-quarantining because they had close contact with Paul.

Birx said social distancing was vital and that people should assume "everyone you are interacting with is positive."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Neel is NPR's deputy senior supervising editor and a correspondent on the Science Desk.