Multiple members of Congress, including the Dean of the U.S. House and the Senate Pro Tempore, third in line to the U.S. presidency, have announced they have tested positive for COVID-19 in November.
But it’s not just high-ranking leaders who are contracting the virus on Capitol Hill. The News-4 I-Team has learned dozens more civil servants — including contractors, U.S. Capitol Police and Architect of the Capitol laborers — are in quarantine or sick leave for the virus.
The new series of cases includes at least four Capitol Police officers and 24 Architect of the Capitol employees, according to a new internal Congressional report shared with the I-Team. The cases add to a growing number of U.S. Capitol Police officers sidelined by the virus. A union representative told the I-Team at least 50 members of the police department have tested positive since March. The internal report said dozens more have required leave or quarantine due to the pandemic.
Though the report does not specify the departments in which the impacted Architect of the Capitol employees work, the Architect of the Capitol staff includes employees in Congressional office buildings, the U.S. Capitol grounds, the Botanic Garden, the Capitol Power Plant and the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.
The new series of cases has also led to the quarantine of at least 10 contract employees who are working on the restoration of the Cannon House Office Building, the I-Team has learned.
These cases come amid growing debate about testing protocols and COVID-19 safety standards on U.S. Capitol grounds. For several months, the top Republican on the U.S. House Committee on Administration has criticized the House for not implementing testing requirements for those who work on the grounds. Earlier this fall, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) said the lack of testing requirements puts employees at risks and prevents the reopening of the Capitol grounds to visitors.
“This is a problem we’ve been bringing up for the last few months, that there is a complete lack of preparation of getting the Hill back to some sense of normalcy. The American people deserve to come see their United States Capitol,” Davis said.
Shortly after President Donald Trump fell ill with the virus in October, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted, “Everyone in the Capitol complex needs to be tested.”
In a tense moment on the U.S. Senate floor earlier this week, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) criticized colleague Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) for not wearing a mask while presiding over the Senate chamber.
“I'd start by asking the presiding officer to please wear a mask as he speaks and people [are] below him,” Brown said.
Sullivan responded, “I don't wear a mask while speaking, like most senators.”
The Senate Pro Tempore, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for the virus.
Grassley, 87, is the most senior Republican member of the U.S. Senate and is now in quarantine. The most senior Member of the U.S. House, Rep. Don Young (R-AK), announced he tested positive also.