As the number of cases of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19 in the U.S. continues to climb, some are calling for Congress to close its doors. But it looks like that’s not going to happen — at least, not if Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has anything to do with it.
The House speaker pushed back Tuesday against some in her caucus who said members of Congress should return to their home districts and hunker down amid concerns that the virus is spreading more rapidly than data has suggested. “We are the captains of the ship. We are the last to leave,” Pelosi told House Democrats in a closed-door meeting, according to The Hill.
“Captains of the ship”
According to The Hill, the idea was suggested by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who reportedly said it would be safer for members of Congress to call a recess. In response, Pelosi echoed New Jersey Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D), a Navy veteran, in likening House representatives to “captains of the ship.”
But, as The Hill notes, some have suggested that Nadler’s concerns aren’t unwarranted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that those over the age of 60 are at particularly high risk for contracting COVID-19, and both Nadler, 72, and Pelosi, 79, fall into that category.
Other House members with pre-existing medical conditions are also considered to be high-risk, including Georgia Rep. John Lewis (D), who recently underwent treatment for pancreatic cancer.
Coronavirus on Capitol Hill?
What’s more, a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill may have been exposed to the coronavirus at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. One of the attendees at the conference later tested positive for COVID-19, according to the New York Post, prompting several lawmakers to self-quarantine when they learned they had interacted with that individual.
Among them was Georgia Rep. Doug Collins (R), who tweeted Monday that while he isn’t “experiencing any symptoms,” he has “decided to self-quarantine out of an abundance of caution.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted a similar message the day before. “I am announcing that I, along with 3 of my senior staff, are officially under self-quarantine after sustained contact at CPAC with a person who has since been hospitalized with the Wuhan Virus,” he said. “My office will be closed for the week.”
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz similarly declared that he would be isolating himself for two weeks after interacting with the infected individual at CPAC, but said in a statement that he feels “fine and healthy.”
“I’m not experiencing any symptoms, and I feel fine and healthy,” Cruz said. “Given that the interaction was 10 days ago, that the average incubation period is 5-6 days, that the interaction was for less than a minute, and that I have no current symptoms, the medical authorities have advised me that the odds of transmission from the other individual to me were extremely low.”
Taking care of Americans
President Donald Trump, for his part, has convened a coronavirus task force to help coordinate federal and state efforts at combatting the disease. At a task force press conference at the White House Tuesday, Trump said his top priority is keeping Americans safe.
“The main thing is that we’re taking care of the American public,” he said, according to a transcript provided by the White House. “We will be taking care of the American public.”