The U.S. Capitol Police force is not being tested for exposure to the coronavirus, despite a request from the union and an increasing number of lawmakers and staffers testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
Union leader Gus Papathanasiou emailed Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund on March 20 to express concern he and other officers have about people in the Capitol complex testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Papathanasiou noted that the union was “getting flooded with calls, texts, emails, etc” and that he is “trying my hardest to keep officers at ease.”
On March 18, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart became the first member of Congress to disclose his COVID-19 virus diagnosis, with Utah Rep. Ben McAdams later sharing his positive test result.
Sund replied via email to Papathanasiou saying the issue raised was addressed the previous day in a department bulletin, adding that testing is not mandated.
“No USCP officers have been identified to be at high risk and no testing required,” Sund said.
Papathanasiou said this stance was wrong.
“That’s unacceptable for the Department to take that position and not test every officer if they’re required to be at work protecting the congressional community in uniform,” Papathanasiou said in a statement.
The pandemic made its way to the Senate chamber Sunday when Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced his positive diagnosis. On Monday, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her husband, John Bessler, has COVID-19.
Capitol Police officers are a fixture in Congress and are a constant presence across the entire complex. While many staffers are working from home, the force is on the ground screening checkpoints and protecting members in person.
The spread of the virus is getting to the point that lawmakers in both chambers, and in both parties, want to adopt remote voting procedures. Democratic Reps. Katie Porter and Eric Swalwell, both from California, along with Texas Republican Rep. Van Taylor, asked House leaders to allow a form of proxy voting. In the Senate, Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, along with Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii, have also expressed support for remote voting.
Neither Sund, nor Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for the Capitol Police, responded to requests for comment.
Niels Lesniewski, Lindsey McPherson and Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.