“Members are very nervous,” a senior Democratic leadership aide told NBC. “There’s a lot of concern that members could bring it home.”
Over the weekend, one member of the House and one from the Senate announced plans to self-quarantine following contact with a man who later tested positive for coronavirus. Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Paul Gosar both said they came in contact with the man at CPAC late last month and, though they were not experiencing symptoms, would remain away from the Capitol.
A decision on a possible recess will be made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was dismissive of the idea last week. She said there are no plans to close the Capitol and noted that while staff can work from home, “We can’t vote from home.” Capitol officials are, however, preparing for the arrival of the virus, CNN reports:
A number of House and Senate offices have begun practicing how they would operate if a chunk of aides were forced into quarantine and had to work from home, congressional sources say. US Capitol Police are working to ensure that secure communications can continue off-site. The leaders of key congressional committees, along with law enforcement authorities and the Capitol physician’s office, have informed each lawmaker’s office to prepare contingency plans in case of an outbreak.
The concern on Capitol Hill is due in part to the relatively old age of members of Congress. The average age is 57.6 years in the House and 62.9 years in the Senate. According to the CDC, older adults are “at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.”
So far, there have been few cases of coronavirus in Washington, D.C. The first was announced over the weekend, after Reverend Timothy Cole, a church rector at Christ Church Georgetown, tested positive. On Monday, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said that the hundreds of people who attended the church with Cole in recent weeks should self-quarantine.
One senator who doesn’t plan to limit his contact with the public is Bernie Sanders. Asked Sunday on CNN if he should limit travel and avoid large crowds given his age, he said: “In the best of all possible worlds, maybe. But right now, we’re running as hard as we can.”