123 front-line Capitol workers have tested, presumed positive for coronavirus has calls grow for more testing
Scores of front-line workers on Capitol Hill have either tested or are presumed positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to a Republican spokeswoman for the House Administration Committee.
The spokeswoman, Ashley Phelps, told Roll Call that the 123 workers include 46 Capitol Police employees, 42 Architect of the Capitol employees, and 35 contractors doing the renovation on the Cannon Building. And as of Monday, there are more than 20 Capitol Police employees on paid administrative leave.
The latest figures on Legislative Branch employees and contractors come less than a week after President Donald Trump announced that he and the first lady have tested positive for COVID-19. Several members of the White House staff have also tested positive for the virus.
But despite the virus reaching the highest levels of government, Capitol Hill still lacks a comprehensive testing program for all workers. Testing and tracing are offered, but not required, for anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to the virus.
Last Friday, Congressional leaders called for requiring virus testing on Capitol Hill after Trump’s diagnosis revived fears of an outbreak in the close quarters of the House and Senate. Those calls grew more urgent after Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., became the latest members of Congress to test positive for the virus.
Lee, Tillis, and Trump attended the White House Rose Garden introduction on Sept. 26 for a formal introduction of the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett.
For months, many leaders in Congress have resisted boosting the voluntary testing system there or accepting tests from the White House, saying supplies should go to frontline workers and the rest of America. But they’ve taken other precautions. The Capitol has been closed to visitors since March, and most offices and committee hearings are at least partially conducted remotely. House members can vote by proxy through their colleagues, to cut down on the number of people milling around.
Calls to ramp up testing for lawmakers have come from both sides of the aisle. In a statement last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “it is imperative that all results be made public in order to contain a possible outbreak and so we can determine the need for senators and staff to quarantine or self-isolate.”
A House GOP staffer also told CQ Roll Call “there is no question about” regarding the issue of more testing for lawmakers.
“Testing should be mandatory for both members and staff, or anyone in the Capitol complex who is actively working there,” he said. “Staff are putting in countless hours.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.