Congress delivered a nearly $500 billion infusion of coronavirus spending Thursday, rushing new relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six U.S. jobs. (April 23)
WASHINGTON – The Capitol’s attending physician said Thursday there aren’t enough tests to preemptively test Senators for the coronavirus as they return to work on Monday.
According to multiple reports, Dr. Brian Monahan, in a call with top Republican officials, stated he only had enough tests to test Senators and staffers with symptoms of COVID-19, and not enough supply a test to an asymptomatic senator.
He also reportedly said he didn’t have access to the “quick tests” the White House has been using. When President Donald Trump took this test himself earlier this month, he said he got the result, a negative, within 15 minutes.
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According to Axios, Monahan said, “My test result can take between two and seven business days to resolve.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly said Senators can return to the Capitol safely. When he announced the Senate would be returning May 4, he said, “We will modify routines in ways that are smart and safe, but we will honor our constitutional duty to the American people and conduct critical business in person.”
Many Senate Democrats have disagreed, and aired their concerns about reconvening amid the pandemic. They also expressed frustration about returning if the Senate does not take up coronavirus relief legislation. McConnell has said he is focusing on confirming executive and judicial nominees.
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Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., who is the oldest sitting US senator at age 86, wrote a letter to McConnell, listing Capitol staff who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Clearly the coronavirus is present at the Capitol,” she wrote, reiterating that coming back “sends the wrong message to the American people, most of whom are being asked or directed to stay at home.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote in a statement: “It is shameful that Mitch McConnell is calling the U.S. Senate back to DC to vote on confirmation of his unqualified judge and nominees unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
House Democrats deciding not to return to the nations capital next week after consulting with Monahan.
In announcing the extension, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., cited increasing coronavirus case numbers in the Washington, D.C., area.
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Of concern is the amount of high-risk individuals in the Senate. The average age is 63.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people older than 60 to avoid large crowds and to stay home as much as possible. A March 18 report from the CDC noted that 31% of cases, 45% of hospitalizations, 53% of ICU admissions and 80% of deaths associated with COVID-19 involve seniors.
According to reports of the conference call, Senators will be asked to wear masks at all times, unless giving a speech. They, and their staffers, will also be encouraged to follow strict social distancing at meetings, in session, and at lunches.
Politico first reported details of the conference call.
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