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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L.A. Angels star Albert Pujols, wife start new cafe concept that helps equip adults from vulnerable situations with vocational training, life skills

COSTA MESA (KABC) — The Los Angeles Angels missed the playoffs this year but Albert Pujols and his wife, Diedre, are keeping busy. The couple launched Open Gate Kitchen, a new cafe concept fueling social good, which equips adults from vulnerable life situations with vocational training and life skills.

Fernando Escobar is now head cook and manager of the restaurant; but a few years ago, he didn’t know where his next meal would come from. Open Gate International helped turn his life around through culinary school.

“My life was in the place of darkness and addicted to meth and alcohol and I ended up in the streets homeless,” said Escobar.

Making food takes Escobar back to days in the kitchen with his mother; Christmas with his family. It now gives him a feeling of empowerment.

“To be a part of something that could possibly help another single parent out there and another single dad to be able to get back on their feet and to provide for their kids is such a humbling experience,” said Escobar.

Diedre Pujols is the founder of the non-profit Open Gate Kitchen. The Costa Mesa restaurant offers life coaching, culinary training and job placement programs to people like Escobar.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” said Diedre.

The mission is a personal one for Pujols. Her own past struggles with addiction and bad choices help her connect with the students here.

“At 19, I didn’t even want to live anymore and so I feel like there’s a way that I can identify with a lot of these individuals who come in,” said Diedre.

Her husband, L.A. Angels first baseman, Albert Pujols, says he worked hard for his own dreams, and he’s helping his wife do the same for their community.

“Their teachers, they get the best of their students, you know, and I think, on the other side, the students put in really hard work, day in and day out, because they know that this is an opportunity or a chance and they don’t want to pass on it,” said Albert.

“Here I am you know, catering for the Los Angeles Angels and all these important people, it’s such a blessing. It is,” said Escobar.

Open Gate Kitchen is now open for dine-in, delivery and take-out options, serving up handcrafted healthy, fresh, cuisine with an international flair.

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Florida’s six most vulnerable House incumbents

Here are the most vulnerable Florida House incumbents in both political parties.

Republican Chuck Clemons

Clemons, who has represented House District 21, which covers portions of Alachua, Dixie and Gilchrist Counties, since 2016, faces a tough challenge from Democrat Kayser Enneking, an anesthesiologist who ran for the Florida Senate seat in 2018 that covers the same region. She lost to GOP Sen. Keith Perry by just 1 point.

By the numbers, the seat is a near tossup. In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 47.6 percent of the vote in the district, but that number jumped to 53.7 percent for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s unsuccessful reelection effort in 2018, a cycle where he was the top Democrat on the ticket.

Both sides are getting help from their statewide parties, an indication the seat is seen as a key piece of each side’s overall strategy.

Enneking’s campaign and an affiliated political committee has raised $435,505 this election cycle, an effort boosted by $10,651 from the Florida Democratic Party to pay for research and campaign staff.

Clemons’ campaign has gotten nearly $70,000 in polling and staff help from the Republican Party of Florida. He has raised $308,617 between his campaign and an affiliated political committee.

Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff

Fetterhoff is a first-term incumbent who represents House District 26, which covers portions of Volusia County. She is in a rematch with former Democratic state Rep. Patrick Henry, who she beat in 2018 by a mere 61 votes.

During the 2018 election cycle, Nelson got 51 percent of the vote in the district, up from 2016 when Hillary Clinton received 48.2 percent of the vote.

Fetterhoff has raised $208,786 between her campaign and a separate political committee, and has received just over $3,000 from the Republican Party of Florida to help pay for staff.

Henry has raised $71,600 between his campaign and committee, and has gotten nearly $40,000 in help from the Florida Democratic Party to help pay for staff.

Republican Mike Caruso

Caruso is in his first term representing House District 89, which covers portions of Palm Beach County, and is being challenged by former Democratic Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio.

During the 2018 election cycle, Nelson got 51 percent of the vote in the district, an increase in Democratic vote share compared to Hillary Clinton, who got 49 percent of the vote.

Caruso has raised $242,160, and gotten a nearly $30,000 boost from the Florida GOP for polling and staff.

Bonfiglio has raised just under $60,000 between his campaign and committee, and poured in $72,500 in personal loans. The Florida Democratic Party has kicked in $18,000 for research.

Democrat Geraldine Thompson

Thompson, a former state senator, has represented Orange County’s House District 44 since 2018. She is being challenged by Bruno Portigliatti, who has never held public office.

Top-of-the-ticket Democrats have won the seat over the past two election cycles, but just barely. Nelson won the district with 52.8 percent of the vote in 2018, a number that was at 51 percent for

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