Senator Dianne Feinstein has been missing Senate votes all week, and this morning her office announced she was “dealing with a health matter," which is now reported to be a shingles infection.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who at 89 years old is the oldest person serving in the U.S. Senate, has missed several votes this week. And word broke Thursday morning that Feinstein is away from Washington, D.C. — in the words of her spokesperson, "The senator is in California this week dealing with a health matter," and "She hopes to return to Washington soon."

A few hours later, the Chronicle confirmed that Feinstein is suffering from a shingles virus infection. “I was diagnosed over the February recess with a case of shingles,” Feinstein said in a statement through her spokesperson Adam Russell. “I have been hospitalized and am receiving treatment in San Francisco and expect to make a full recovery. I hope to return to the Senate later this month.”

Shingles is a resurgence of the chickenpox virus common in elderly people, and it is generally not life-threatening, but a massive and often painful inconvenience. Per the Centers for Disease Control, “Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and fully clears up within 2 to 4 weeks.”

But we must acknowledge the hard truths of what this means for the Democrats’ slim Senate majority. Feinstein's likely out for a couple weeks, and same with Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman.  That leaves the current vote a 49-49 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote, a role she’s been playing this week.

One’s mind can’t help but turn to all the stories alleging Feinstein’s “cognitive decline,” and whether she will actually return to work. Yes, Feinstein has announced she’ll retire at the end of this term, and already has a healthy crew of aspiring Democrats after her seat. But should she not return, and Governor Gavin Newsom announces her appointed replacement, that throws the mother of all monkey wrenches into that 2024 Senate race.

Related: Feinstein Makes It Official, She Will Retire After Next Year [SFist]

Image: WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 13: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) walks to the Senate Chambers during a series of the votes at the U.S. Capitol Building on February 13, 2023 in Washington, DC. Officials announced over the weekend that for the fourth time in two weeks U.S. forces had shot down a high flying object in North American airspace. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)