President Donald Trump is struggling through responding to the Coronavirus outbreak — on camera recently, he’s even repeatedly engaged in exactly the kind of interpersonal physical interaction that public health professionals say should be limited in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus. He’s shaken hands, touched a microphone that others used, and more. Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) helped pick up some of the slack with a letter to colleagues in which she encouraged them and their offices to practice “social distancing,” which refers to an effort to keep people apart to cut off virus spread.
After noting that chamber-wide measures have already been taken including the closure of Capitol tours with both the House and Senate, Pelosi added:
‘As the House continues our work to confront this public health emergency, we must ensure that we can continue to serve our constituents effectively. The health and safety of our staff is essential to this mission. In bipartisan consultation with the Attending Physician and the Sergeant at Arms, and out of an abundance of caution, I am writing to encourage you to take steps to promote social distancing within your Washington, D.C. office as we engage in the District Work Period. This may entail more than half of your Washington staff teleworking from home.’
At leas some members of Congress were already engaging in social distancing with their offices. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) revealed as much when he also revealed that a former staffer with his office — Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman, it seems, who’d worked with Schiff during the impeachment proceedings — had tested positive for the Coronavirus. Apparently, Goldman is believed to have contracted the virus after he left Schiff’s office, but the Congressman said that he’d be continuing his office’s social distancing anyway and providing updates as appropriate.
It’s not the first run-in with the virus on Capitol Hill — far from it. Both Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Rep. David Schweikert‘s (R-Ariz.) have revealed that individual members of their staff had tested positive for the Coronavirus.
Those cases are in addition to the repeated virus exposures that have driven members of Congress including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rick Scott (R-Fl.) to quarantine themselves out of an abundance of caution. Their exposures took place at venues ranging from this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference to the president’s own Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump himself has been tested for the virus following his own repeated exposures, and the test came back negative. The United States has reported some 3,807 cases of the Coronavirus, and that number is rapidly increasing as other countries — like Italy, Iran, and Spain — get hit especially hard following the initial outbreak in China. Italy alone has now reported around 3,500 new confirmed cases of the virus two days in a row, and the country has experienced almost 25,000 cases overall and about 1,800 deaths.