As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases balloon across the United States, Capitol Hill has not been immune to the crisis, albeit on a much smaller scale.
Sunday saw the announcement of two more cases of Hill staffers, one current and one former, testing positive for COVID-19, four days after Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell revealed that an aide in her D.C. office had been diagnosed. The numbers could be far greater than what has been reported, however, given the unavailability of tests and people with less severe symptoms being denied tests.
More than half a dozen lawmakers are self-quarantining after coming in contact with individuals who’ve later tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Two Democrats, House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján and Rep. Gwen Moore, on Monday became the latest lawmakers to announce they were going into self-quarantine.
Luján’s office said he is not exhibiting symptoms after “a brief interaction with an individual who was at the time asymptomatic but later tested positive for COVID-19.” The New Mexico Democrat learned about the individual’s diagnosis Sunday afternoon and while health professionals say he is at low risk for infection, he decided to self-quarantine “out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of the public,” his office said.
Moore was informed Sunday night that someone she came in contact with on March 8 tested positive for the virus.
“I did not physically contact this individual and I consulted with the Office of the Attending Physician, who informed me that my risk for contracting COVID-19 is low,” the Wisconsin Democrat said in a statement. “While I have not shown any symptoms, I will follow guidance from public health officials and practice social distancing and self-quarantine to protect others from potential exposure.”
Rep. David Schweikert announced Sunday that one of his D.C.-based aides tested positive for COVID-19 and is resting at home in Virginia. Because the Arizona Republican had contact with his staffer, he is self-quarantining and working remotely until advised otherwise by doctors.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff also announced Sunday that a staffer who had left his office 10 days prior had tested positive. Although medical professionals believe the former staffer likely contracted the virus after he left Schiff’s office, the California Democrat is continuing the social distancing plan he had already put in place for him and his staff.
“Even prior to receiving this notification, we had postponed my district events and meetings, and requested that my staff telecommute from home for the foreseeable future out of an abundance of caution,” Schiff said in a statement.
A fourth positive COVID-19 case announced Sunday was for a Delaware-based staff member for the state’s senior senator, Democrat Thomas R. Carper.
“The individual has not [traveled] to Washington D.C. recently and has had no contact with Senator Carper or other members of Congress since exhibiting symptoms,” a Carper spokeswoman said.
Despite tests not being widely available and often denied to individuals without more severe symptoms, some members of Congress have been tested after learning that individuals they’ve come in contact with later contracted the virus.
House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth tweeted Monday that he tested negative for COVID-19, but he planned to continue working at home. The Kentucky Democrat had announced a day earlier that he was self-quarantining after learning an individual he was in the presence of a week earlier had tested positive for the virus.
South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham had been self-quarantining after possible contact at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida with a Brazilian government official who later tested positive for COVID-19. Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro were also present at the event.
Both presidents said they tested negative for the virus, and Graham said he would end quarantine after his test also came up negative.
Florida GOP Sen. Rick Scott, who also had contact with the Brazilian delegation at the event, remains in self-quarantine.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said last week he would consult with doctors on the need to self-quarantine after meeting with a member of the Spanish Parliament who has since tested positive for the coronavirus.
“After consulting with medical professionals it was determined Sen. Johnson would not need to self-quarantine,” spokesman Ben Voelkel said Monday. “He has exhibited no symptoms and is now past the 14 day mark since he came in contact with the individual in concern.”
Several Republican lawmakers who came into contact with an attendee at the Conference Political Action Conference in Maryland last month are no longer in self-quarantine, with the exception of Texas Sen. Ted Cuz. He announced Friday he was extending his isolation through March 17 after learning that the Spanish politician he met with in his D.C. office, Santiago Abascal of the Vox Party, tested positive.
Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr., who went on self-quarantine after learning a friend he had dinner with contracted the virus, is also past the recommended isolation period. But the Virginia Democrat plans to telework and practice social distancing to set an example of best practices to limit the spread of the pandemic, a spokesman said.