Congress remains vulnerable to Covid despite White House outbreak

WASHINGTON — The White House coronavirus outbreak, which has infected nearly 20 people in President Donald Trump’s circle, sheds new light on the lack of contact tracing and safety protocols in place for the House and Senate.



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And while those working around President Donald Trump are tested daily, the Capitol has no such protocols.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ignored multiple questions from reporters this week when asked if widespread testing should be offered in the Capitol. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday on MSNBC “Most of the people in our world who have come into contact and have been tested positive did not get the virus at the Capitol. It was in other encounters, including at the White House.”

Since the offer of rapid testing machines was initially made by the White House in May, Pelosi and McConnell have remained in agreement on one thing: no widespread testing on Capitol Hill, despite pressure from leaders on both sides of the aisle to do so.

Timeline: How coronavirus spread through the Trump administration

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“With just so many bodies coming in and out of here, I don’t understand why the speaker would continue to not have testing,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who supported the White House’s offer since July, told reporters on Friday.

After the outbreak in the White House and three senators who had recently been there announcing they had tested positive, high-ranking lawmakers endorsed endorsed widespread testing for the 535 members of Congress and Capitol staff.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the hours after Trump’s diagnosis “This episode demonstrates that the Senate needs a testing and contact tracing program for senators, staff, and all who work in the Capitol complex.”

McConnell and Schumer agreed to recess the Senate until Oct. 19 following the outbreak, with the exception of committee hearings — meaning confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court will go on as planned beginning Oct. 12. It is not clear whether Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., will require proof of negative tests for those attending in person.

Despite all of this, there remains no indication that the Capitol will have any kind of precautionary measures to prevent more cases within its walls. And even now, senators are being urged against precautionary testing unless there are symptoms present.

In-depth look at the reliability of rapid Covid tests

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There is no temperature check system, no mandatory testing, and no proof of a negative Covid test required upon entry to the Capitol building. That means hundreds of lawmakers, their staff, Capitol workers, and reporters enter the complex each day without any assurances that it is safe. And every weekend, most lawmakers travel all over the country back to their home states.

There are also no apparent contact tracing measures in place. NBC News has learned that individual offices each have their own protocols on reporting positive cases and

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1 PA County Remains In COVID-19 Red Zone: White House Task Force

PENNSYLVANIA — New coronavirus cases and test positivity rates have stabilized in Pennsylvania, the White House Coronavirus Task Force said this week in its latest state-level report.

Still, one county — Centre — remains in the coronavirus “red” zone. One is in the “orange” zone and five are in the “yellow” zone.

The task force’s state-level reports summarize coronavirus activity and offer recommendations to state leaders based on trends. Pennsylvania’s most recent report was dated Sept. 27.

The Center for Public Integrity has been collecting and disseminating the weekly reports, which are sent by the task force to governors around the country. The reports aren’t made public by the task force.

In addition to assessing recent data, the report makes recommendations for officials to follow as it responds to the pandemic.

The task force is recommending Penn State and Indiana University — where recent outbreaks have been reported — be “monitored closely.” Centre County, the sole red zone county, is home to Penn State’s University Park Campus.

RELATED: Coronavirus Spike At Penn State Alarms Top PA Health Officials

In the previous report issued Sept. 20, there were two Pennsylvania counties in the red zone. Counties in the red zone have reported more than 100 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result above 10 percent. Indiana County, previously red, is now in the yellow zone, the Sept. 27 report said.

Northumberland County is in the orange zone, which means it has reported between 51 and 100 new cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result between 8 and 10 percent.

Counties in the yellow zone have reported between 10 and 50 new cases per 100,000 residents and a diagnostic test positivity result between 5 and 7.9 percent. In addition to Indiana, counties listed in the yellow zone in the most recent report include York, Juniata, Lebanon, and Perry.

Overall, Pennsylvania remains in the yellow zone for cases and in the green zone for test positivity. The state’s new case rate remains below the national average, with 43 cases per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 93 per 100,000 residents.

Pennsylvania reported 1,153 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 158,967. There have been 8,142 coronavirus deaths in Pennsylvania since the onset of the pandemic.

The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report for Pennsylvania can be viewed in full here.

This article originally appeared on the Across Pennsylvania Patch

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Injured elephant remains in interior forest

Efforts by the Forest Department to tranquillise and treat an injured wild elephant within the limits of Mettupalayam forest range were stalled as the ailing animal continued to remain in interior forest.

Officials with the Department said that the male elephant with multiple piercing wounds on its body was stationed at least five km away from the forest boundary on Tuesday.

I. Anwardeen, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore Circle), said that the tusker aged around 25 was stationed at an elevated place named Thaneerpallam on the lower slopes of the Nilgiris on Tuesday.

The area is rich in terms of the availability of water and fodder and the elephant did not move to other places. The official added that the elephant will be tranquillised only when it comes to a plain terrain.

Two kumkis – Suyambu and Venkatesh – from Chadivayal elephant camp and their handlers were camping near Nellithurai reserve forest area where the injured tusker was last spotted on September 12.

Though the elephant remained in interior forest, the field staff of the department were placing fruits stuffed with medicines for the animal based on the directions of veterinarians. Cameras were also placed in the forest to check whether the elephant was taking the fruits.

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