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.
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.
“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.
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