Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) On Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) To take the necessary guarantees when the chamber resumes next week, or may increase the spread of coronavirus in the Washington area.
Return of legislators and Senate staff to Capitol Hill without precautions that maximize telework, minimize the number of support staff needed in person, and institute temperature checks and rapid tests would undermine imposed home stay orders by district, Maryland, and Virginia leaders, he wrote.
“While the Senate has essential work to do on behalf of the American people, we must be mindful of our role in controlling the spread of Covid-19 and have clear plans in place to ensure the safety of personnel and Capitol Police who support our work and take care of the Capitol, “says the letter. “… I am ready to return to the Capitol, but you have an obligation to ensure the safety of all personnel working there.”
Van Hollen called the D.C. region a “Covid-19 hotspot” with more than 38,000 cases and 1,700 deaths since Tuesday evening, despite efforts to distance themselves socially, protect health care providers and guarantee hospital capacity.
Adding legislators, staff and support staff to the situation could worsen the spread of the disease, he said.
Capitol staff and police and 11 workers renovating the Cannon House office building have already tested positive, he said.
Residents of the region “make real sacrifices to stay at home and close their businesses to protect our community,” he wrote.
The district, which Van Hollen noted to have been tampered with in a federal rescue law, has taken several steps to manage the pandemic. The metro and bus service, which many Senate employees use to get to work, has been significantly reduced to protect public transit workers.
“The safety of the capital region and our ability to flatten the curve are directly related to recommendations from public health experts on social isolation and other precautions,” he wrote.