Concerns Mount Over US Capitol's Lack of COVID-19 Requirements as President Tests Positive

Most coronavirus safety measures for Capitol Hill are advisories, not requirements

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President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 test comes despite regular testing and health screenings at the White House — and such measures aren't as strict for the legislative branch.

Reporting by the News4 I-Team recently revealed there’s a distinct coronavirus risk on Capitol Hill, where Congress has been in session this week.

Most of the coronavirus safety rules on the Hill are not mandates. They are advisories, according to a News4 I-Team’s review of internal memos from the U.S. House Office of Attending Physician.

As Congress grapples with how to respond to COVID-19, Capitol Hill itself is dealing with another surge in cases. News4’s Scott MacFarlane reports dozens of employees are on leave or quarantine as the virus spreads.

Hill administrators have asked employees to telework, wear masks and keep a social distance from others.

But there are no social distancing requirements. Nor are there testing requirements or screening protocols for staff, journalists or members of Congress.

While many members have worked from home at points during the pandemic, many have been on Capitol Hill — along with top White House staff — during the last week negotiating a new federal coronavirus relief package and meeting with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

After the news of the Trumps' diagnoses, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted that everyone in the Capitol complex should be tested.

"No business should proceed in the Senate until we understand the scope of this crisis," Murphy said.

Members of Congress have tested positive before, but dozens of people who have been diagnosed are civil servants or Capitol Police officers. Contractors who work for the Architect of the Capitol are another group hit by the virus.

News4 spoke with Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., the top-ranking Republican on the House Administration Committee, last week about the lack of rules. And he says it’s one reason that so many members, including himself, have tested positive. It's also why tour groups are still not able to return.

“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.

Now that President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and top aide Hope Hicks have tested positive for the virus, there's concern about interactions between the legislative and executive branch.

The White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been on the Hill this week for negotiations on a COVID-19 rescue plan, in close proximity to congressional leaders. Neither has announced that they have tested positive or are showing symptoms.

President Trump and Melania Trump both are doing well, the president's physician said early Friday.

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