As Congress returns to Washington, the union that represents U.S. Capitol Police officers reports at least 14 officers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The officers were isolated to reduce the risk of spread.
The Office of Attending Physician (OAP) released new guidance for offices to further reduce the risk of spread, including a recommendation that staff and visitors wear masks. That recommendation is optional.
“I’m worried about that; I’m worried about any reports of workers on Capitol Hill getting COVID-19,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
The OAP also recommends more telework, the spread of workers further apart in office spaces, daily temperature checks by employees at home and avoiding communal areas including lunch areas and vending machines.
“The staff will soon be using the same lavatories,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. “I don’t know how they’re going to feed us. So this is real going to be a real hardship for the House of Representatives, but most of us are really anxious to get back to work.”
The chair of the House Administration Committee said the U.S. Capitol Police suspended its collective bargaining agreement with union officers during this emergency, saying that gives the officers less ability to negotiate or discuss possible virus safety hazards.
“This departure from past practice potentially eliminates a critical line of communication to express concerns to department leadership and unnecessarily strains the relationship between labor and management,” the chair said in a statement to News4 Wednesday.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
U.S. Capitol Police declined multiple requests for comment and an interview request on the topic.
Several members of the House sent U.S. Capitol Police a letter Wednesday asking why the collective bargaining agreement was suspended.
U.S. Capitol Police has said it is extending restrictions on large groups of visitors and tour groups for several more weeks to reduce the risk.