Denver Gazette: Pols catch COVID, placing pandemic in perspective

It wasn’t so long ago that it was big news when prominent players in politics came down with a case of COVID-19. Now, of course, there’s a long list of them. Among them, as of this week, are Colorado U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn from the 5th Congressional District and Ed Perlmutter from the 7th.

It also wasn’t too long ago when the public looked on in amazement if some of the prominent pols who contracted the virus appeared to be taking it in stride. Maybe they even shook it off within days. It was met with disbelief by much of the national and international press, and with indignation by the political establishment.

Take, for example, Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, the vaccine skeptic and mask critic who tested positive during a screening last summer as he boarded Air Force One. He later would tell a local newspaper in his district he felt “better than before I had it.” Then, there’s that all-time study in COVID nonchalance, Brazilian President . He was criticized for dismissing the upper-respiratory ailment throughout the spring, then caught it in July. Unbowed in August, he pronounced to the press, “unfortunately nearly everyone here is going to catch it eventually…What are you afraid of? Face up to it.”

There’s now no shortage of those politicians, too. Among them is the most politically prominent COVID skeptic of all, President Trump. When he finally tested positive along the campaign trail this fall, he checked in and out of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington in three days. Not quite a drive-by, but perhaps noteworthy for his age. Given his 74 years, a much more serious bout was anticipated. He continues to regard it as no big deal.

To date, more than 80 members of Congress either have tested positive for COVID or have come into contact with someone who tested positive, as noted in a report this week by Colorado Politics. The same can be said for some 200 elected state officials across the country. Some of those politically prominent figures have suffered the worst COVID can dish out, particularly to those who face other risk factors like age. Among them was onetime Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, 74, who died last summer of COVID-related complications.

For the vast majority of those politicians who actually came down with the virus, however, it fared pretty much as it does with the population at large: flu-like symptoms or milder.

So, when Coloradans learned this week of Lamborn’s and Perlmutter’s test results, it arguably wasn’t much of a show stopper. That’s at least in part because, as with so many who contract the virus, both congressmen are doing well, for which we are grateful. And both seem to be handling their circumstances with aplomb.

“I’m feeling good,” Perlmutter said, in a news release to the media. “I am currently in Washington, D.C., and plan to isolate in my apartment while continuing to work and voting remotely.”

And even though his press statement included familiar exhortations to take the virus seriously, socially distance, wear masks and avoid large gatherings, it’s worth noting Perlmutter said he had been, “taking precautions like so many Coloradans over the past eight months.” Which is a reminder even the most stringent precautions are far from foolproof, and there is only so much one can do to hedge against this persistent strain of coronavirus.

Lamborn, similarly, is experiencing “mild symptoms” of COVID and is isolating himself at home where he will continue to work, according to a spokeswoman.

Another reason the two congressional veterans’ COVID status is just another event in the week’s news cycle is that so many of us have been down this road plenty of times by now. And it’s not only because of all the celebs — in politics, sports, entertainment and the like — who have been tweeting their test results. It’s also because, with each passing week, more and more Coloradans have family, friends and coworkers who have caught COVID.

While some of those have fallen seriously ill, and some, particularly among the elderly, have died as in other epidemics — most have ailed to varying degrees, mended and moved on. When that same range of outcomes turns out to apply to our political leaders, it lends some much-needed perspective to the overall pandemic. It’s a reminder — sobering and heartening at the same time — that anyone can catch the virus; many probably will, and most of those will recover fairly quickly and without too much discomfort.

And that’s even before a COVID vaccine, whose distribution will begin soon.

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