No hands! House offices get uniform signage for social distancing

Staffers says guidance is belated

UNITED STATES - MARCH 12: Police line yellow tape is strung up in front of the U.S. Capitol dome on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 12: Police line yellow tape is strung up in front of the U.S. Capitol dome on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:18am

House offices received a graphic poster Friday morning that would alert visitors and staff that “no-contact meetings” are in effect in the workplace, showing an image of a handshake with a slash through it.

“In light of the new guidance from the Attending Physician and [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] this week, the Committee has created a graphic that you may wish to use for your D.C. and/or district offices for communicating with visitors about the importance of social distancing,” said an email from the Committee on House Administration that included the infographic.

Two House staffers who provided the email to CQ Roll Call expressed concern that the effort was belated and House-wide messaging on social distancing should have been provided earlier.

“NOTICE,” reads the poster. “In light of concerns about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and in accordance with guidance issued by the Office of the Attending Physician and the CDC, this office is conducting ‘NO CONTACT’ meetings.”

California Rep. Raul Ruiz, an emergency physician, recommended to Democratic Caucus and leadership on Tuesday the House produce a standard sign that lawmakers can put on their office doors with public health infographics and announcements that the office is avoiding handshakes and using hand sanitizers.

“So that it is coming from the House Administration Committee and the physician’s office, so staff and others don’t feel nervous about creating a sign that may stigmatize the office,” Ruiz said.

He also suggested that members and staff on Capitol Hill could wear a pin or a button in a neon color that would help everyone remember not to instinctively extend a hand for a shake. He hoped that visual signals may help with the issue of staff feeling anxious about telling a constituent that they won’t shake their hand.