WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new report reveals more than 120 front-line workers in the U.S. Capitol complex have tested positive—or are presumed positive—for the novel coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Roll Call.
Roll Call reports the numbers were confirmed by House Admin GOP Spokesperson Ashley Phelps.
Included in the count of 123 Capitol complex employees are 46 Capitol Police employees, 42 Architect of the Capitol employees and 35 contractors working on the Cannon Building renovation project, according to Roll Call.
How bad has COVID impacted Washington? It forced the Senate to call off lawmaking as three GOP senators tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
So great was the threat posed by COVID-19 that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called off floor proceedings for the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings are still slated to begin Oct. 12.
“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process,” McConnell wrote Saturday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who like McConnell is running for reelection, added that senators can attend the hearings remotely.
Members of the House and Senate, meanwhile, increasingly demanded that Congress adopt uniform testing and tracing plans for anyone in the warren of the Capitol. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell have resisted doing so because universal testing is not available to everyone in America.
Some senators called for a more stringent protocol and contact tracing for Congress. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called on McConnell to require immediate tests for every senator and staff member who has visited the White House over the past two weeks.
This is happening as the White House acts as a treatment ward for not one — but two — COVID-19 patients, including a president who has long taken the threat of the virus lightly.
President Donald Trump’s decision to return home from a military hospital despite his continued illness is putting new focus on the people around him who could be further exposed if he doesn’t abide by strict isolation protocols. Throughout the pandemic, White House custodians, ushers, kitchen staff and members of the U.S. Secret Service have continued to show up for work in what is now a coronavirus hot spot, with more than a dozen known cases this week alone.
“My heart goes out to everyone touched by this virus, from those at the White House, especially the Secret Service and residence staff whose service ought never be taken for granted, to all those names and stories most of us will unfortunately never know,” tweeted former first lady Michelle Obama.
Trump, still contagious, has made clear that he has little intention of abiding by best containment practices.
As he arrived back at the White House on Monday evening, the president defiantly removed his face mask and stopped to pose on a balcony within feet of a White House photographer. He was seen inside moments later, surrounded by numerous people as he taped a video message urging Americans not to fear a virus that has killed more than 210,000 in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House was “taking every precaution necessary” to protect not just the first family but “every staff member working on the complex” consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and best practices. He added that physical access to the president would be significantly limited and appropriate protective gear worn by those near him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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