Congress Hit by 'Unprecedented' Surge in Cases

Lawmakers urged to meet virtually amid wave of COVID-19 cases
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2022 2:00 AM CST
Congress Hit by 'Unprecedented' Surge in Cases
Members of the House of Representatives gather in the chamber to vote on creation of a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, on June 30, 2021.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Capitol physician is warning lawmakers of an "unprecedented" number of cases hitting members of Congress and their staffers. At the on-site testing center, the 7-day positivity rate is higher than 13%, compared to less than 1% before the rise of the omicron variant, Politico reports. Omicron accounts for 61% of current cases in Congress, according to the letter from the Office of the Attending Physician, with delta accounting for 38% of cases, per NBC News. Of current patients, 65% are symptomatic and 35% asymptomatic. The letter from Dr. Brian Monahan warned that cases are expected to rise even further.

He recommended in-person meetings be eliminated "to the maximum extent possible" and that the mask policy, when indoor gatherings must take place, be strictly enforced. People should be wearing N-95 masks rather than surgical masks or cloth masks, he added, and he recommended lawmakers get vaccinated and get a booster shot. The Senate returns to work Tuesday, with the House of Representatives following next week. A Senate Democratic source says the party's regular in-person lunches are expected to be held virtually for at least this week. For details on who in Congress has tested positive or been exposed to COVID, see GovTrack. (More Congress stories.)

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