WASHINGTON (AP) – Congressional leaders said Friday they are taking a fresh look at the call for virus testing on Capitol Hill after President Donald Trump’s viral infection raised fears of an outbreak in the narrow, increasingly tense neighborhoods of the house and home Senate has revived.
Just hours after news of Trump’s diagnosis rocked Washington and the 2020 campaign, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Thom Tillis, RN.C., were the youngest members of Congress to test positive for the virus, the has killed more than 205,000 Americans. All three attended the White House launch of the Rose Garden by Trump̵
When Trump’s campaign canceled or postponed personal events, concerns rose on Capitol Hill, where testing and tracking are offered but not required for anyone who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“We just cannot allow the government’s reckless attitude to adversely affect this branch of government,” said Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate minority, in a statement. “It is imperative that all results are made public in order to contain a possible outbreak. Therefore, we can determine whether senators and staff need to be quarantined or self-isolated.”
House majority chairman Steny Hoyer said he spoke with House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi Friday morning about how to take or request tests in the Capitol.
“We haven’t made a decision. With this in mind, we have to consult with our medical professionals, ”said Hoyer, D-Md., To reporters. He said a concern was having reliable tests performed.
Pelosi’s office later referred to a statement from the Capitol Doctor reviewing current policy.
The congressional dilemma continues to resemble what schools, places of worship, workplaces and the White House face when the virus rages across the United States. Nationally and on Capitol Hill, there are no comprehensive plans that require testing or the wearing of masks.
For months, Congressional leaders have opposed strengthening the voluntary testing system or accepting tests from the White House, saying that supplies should be provided to frontline workers and the rest of America. But they took other precautions. The Capitol has been closed to visitors since March, and most of the offices and committee hearings are conducted at least partially remotely. Members of the House of Representatives may vote through proxy through their peers to reduce the number of people walking around.
But Capitol Hill remains a potential vector of disease in all respects. It’s a tangle of tunnels, parlors, tiny elevators, and strange staircases traversed by chatty lawmakers who have flown in from everywhere. Many members are older and more prone to infection. Some Republicans have refused to wear masks at times.
The virus’s potential for spreading has only been abundant in the past few days. Barrett visited dozens of Senators, including Lee and Tillis, ahead of their confirmation session, which is expected to begin October 12.
Both men are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will conduct Barrett’s confirmatory hearings. Lee, Tillis, and other Republican panel members were among those who attended the Rose Garden event on Saturday. Photos from the event show very few people wearing masks.
Several members of Congress attended the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Tuesday, when members of the president’s family took off their masks during the 95-minute exchange. And then there was the house meeting on Friday.
Trump’s diagnosis added to the atmosphere.
“I think it is time for my colleagues, you know, to deny science, to stop their nonsense on the flat earth and to protect themselves and others,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, DN.Y.
“Everyone in the Capitol complex needs to be tested,” tweeted Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “Any Republican senator or employee who has been in close contact with Trump must be quarantined. No business should be done in the Senate until we understand the scope of this crisis. “
Republicans were far more subdued about the need for additional COVID precautions.
Podiatrist Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio pointed out that some tests were unreliable. When asked if his colleagues should wear masks more often, he replied, “It would help.”
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