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Congress prepares its own coronavirus plan amid reports of potential spread among staffers

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Unconfirmed reports emerged late Thursday evening that a “congressional staffer has tested positive for” coronavirus, Fox News host Tucker Carlson reported.

“The Chinese coronavirus continues to spread across this country. There are even reports tonight that a congressional staffer has tested positive for it,” the FNC host briefly said during the evening’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

Listen:


(Source: Fox News)

That, however, was all he said about the unconfirmed reports. As of Friday morning, no further information had appeared publicly about the matter.

A review of past stories published earlier in the week did suggest though that, despite claims otherwise from top House leaders and some health officials, Congress itself is not entirely prepared for a potential outbreak.

“[House] Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer [claimed] that leaders and health and safety officials at the Capitol are prepared with contingency plans if a lawmaker or staffer falls ill with COVID-19,” Roll Call confirmed on Wednesday.

The outlet added that Attending Physician of the United States Congress Dr. Brian P. Monahan has assured congressional Democrats and Republicans that his office is fully prepared to tackle a crisis in case coronavirus does make it into Congress.

“I think we are adequately prepared by way of resources to protect our first-response personnel and provide that service to the Capitol community for any number of scenarios that might arise,” he told Roll Call.

Hoyer admitted though that Congress doesn’t have any sort of telecommuting plan in place that, as reported by RC, “would allow the House to legislate remotely if members fall ill with COVID-19 and social distancing measures are put in place.”

We have no plans at this point in time, and we are hopeful, of course, that everybody here at the Capitol remains coronavirus-free,” he explicitly said.

It would be a challenge, obviously, to have people all go home when the policymakers need to be responding to the crisis.”

Not only is this not good, but it also seems like a direct contradiction of his earlier claim that Congress is prepared for a coronavirus outbreak

Meanwhile, another report emerged Wednesday about an email sent by Monahan’s office warning some congressional staffers that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus during this year’s AIPAC conference, which had just concluded a day earlier.

“The Office of Attending Physician has been made aware of an informational memo sent by AIPAC regarding a possible coronavirus exposure that may have occurred regarding attendees at the recent AIPAC meeting in Washington, DC,” the email reportedly read.

The memo cited by Monahan’s office warned that a group of AIPAC attendees from the New York area “was potentially in contact prior to the conference with an individual who contracted coronavirus.”

View the memo below:

“[T]here is no particular action necessary at this time for our Congressional Members who attended the meeting in Washington DC. … The DC Health Department considers this a low-risk exposure,” the email from Monahan’s office reportedly continued.

Yet reports have already emerged of at least one attendee contracting the virus:

This is especially concerning because Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez had met with President Donald Trump on Monday, in part to speak about the coronavirus.

Watch:

Plus, a slew of top congressional Republicans and Democrats had attended the AIPAC conference, as had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“According to AIPAC’s website, more than two-thirds of Congress attend the annual policy event, which occurred earlier this month,” CNBC has confirmed.

“Those scheduled to speak at the event this year included Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., House Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, according to its website.”

And a day after the conference’s conclusion, Israel reportedly instituted a quarantine for those returning from it.

“The Israeli Health Ministry on Wednesday instituted new guidelines on the novel coronavirus specifically for residents returning to the country from ‘international conferences abroad,'” The Intercept revealed. “A ministry update, pushed out on its Telegram account today, advises that attendees of conferences ‘will be charged with home isolation for 14 days.'”

Vivek Saxena

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