Perdue quarantines after exposure to COVID-19 in final days of tight runoff race

U.S. Sen. David Perdue greets the crowd during a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Canton, Ga., on Nov. 20, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

U.S. Sen. David Perdue greets the crowd during a Defend the Majority Republican Rally in Canton, Ga., on Nov. 20, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer /

GAINESVILLE — U.S. Sen. David Perdue said Thursday he was forced to quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus, scrambling the final days of a runoff campaign for control of the U.S. Senate.

In a statement, the Republican’s campaign said he and his wife Bonnie tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday morning and are isolating as a precaution after learning they had been in close contact with an unidentified member of his staff who contracted the disease.

It meant that Perdue is sitting out a joint campaign event scheduled Thursday evening with U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, but it’s not immediately clear how it will shape the rest of the busy campaign schedule ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

He’s scheduled more stops on a statewide bus tour over the weekend and was set to appear with President Donald Trump on a runoff eve rally on Monday.

Campaign spokesman John Burke wouldn’t say whether Perdue plans to attend the rally or offer any additional details about the staffer who contracted the disease. He and his wife, Bonnie, have already early voted in the runoff.

It is also unclear if Perdue will miss an expected vote Friday in Washington. The Senate must decide if it will join the House in overriding Trump’s veto of a defense funding bill that also includes a provision to rename bases named after Confederate leaders. Neither Perdue nor Loeffler have said whether they will side with Trump or Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the override.

Perdue and fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler have kept an aggressive campaign schedule as they try to generate tremendous election day turnout on Tuesday to erase what appears to be a sizable early-voting advantage for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Perdue, a first-term former Fortune 500 chief executive, is the latest high-profile Georgia politician forced to self-isolate after being possibly exposed to the disease, which has killed more than 10,000 Georgians and sickened more than 550,000 others.

Loeffler went into self-quarantine after she tested positive for the disease in late November, but then emerged from quarantine after subsequent tests showed she was negative.

And days before the November election, Gov. Brian Kemp went into self-quarantine after U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson disclosed he tested positive for the coronavirus. The two Republican politicians had attended a crowded indoor political event together shortly before the announcement.

Four Republican members of Georgia’s congressional delegation have tested positive for COVID-19 this year. Two Democratic members also had the virus, although it was before they were elected to office. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins quarantined after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus during the early stages of the pandemic.

Though Loeffler and Perdue often wear face masks, their campaign events regularly draw large crowds where few use face coverings and socially distancing is impossible.

At Thursday’s GOP event, a country music concert at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center in Gainesville featuring Riley Green, organizers required face masks for the hundreds of people in front of the stage, though they were bunched up shoulder-to-shoulder in cramped confines.