How The Coronavirus Has Affected Individual Members Of Congress | New Hampshire Public Radio

How The Coronavirus Has Affected Individual Members Of Congress

Apr 15, 2020
Originally published on July 14, 2020 1:08 pm

Updated on July 14 at 1 p.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic has brought much of the daily work of Congress to a halt.

House and Senate leaders delayed bringing back members for several weeks because of the outbreak and as public health guidelines recommended continued social distancing.

The Senate finally returned in May, but the much larger House stayed mostly away as a result of advice from the attending physician to Congress. The same month, the House approved historic rule changes allowing remote voting and hearings.

During the outbreak, the virus has infected several lawmakers and forced many more members to self-quarantine. Some have announced symptoms from their home districts. And it remains an ongoing threat.

Two Republican lawmakers, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, were the first members of Congress to announce self-quarantines, on March 8. Both had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., a few days earlier. An attendant at the conference had fallen ill, its organizers revealed.

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The following week, two members of Congress were the first to announce they had tested positive for the illness. Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams both said they developed symptoms after a March 14 vote on a coronavirus relief package.

Since that time, dozens more lawmakers entered self-quarantine as a result of exposure to someone who was sick, including fellow members of Congress, constituents and dignitaries.

Capitol Hill has also seen staffers for lawmakers and workers become ill with COVID-19 symptoms. By June, more than 60 Capitol workers reported a positive test or symptoms, including more than a dozen members of the U.S. Capitol Police.

And some lawmakers have taken antibody tests to see if they were previously ill. Among them, Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, both say they tested positive months after experiencing symptoms in the spring.

To stem the flow of new cases, both chambers have issued new social distancing guidance, such as encouraging the use of masks. The U.S. Capitol remains closed to public tours and open only to members, staff, press and official business visitors.

: 4/16/20

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina as a Republican. He is a Democrat.

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