The Senate isn’t able to test every single senator for Coronavirus, the Capitol’s physician has said. The news comes just days before senators are due to return to Washington.
Attending physician Dr. Brian Monahan said on a conference call that the Senate lacks the capacity to test senators quickly, though senators and staffers with symptoms will be tested.
There are just 100 senators and the body is due to meet on Monday. Around half of senators are over 65 and therefore in a high risk group for Coronavirus.
By contrast, anyone who meets with President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence is tested for the virus. Recent reports suggest Trump and Pence receive regular tests.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate can reopen safely next week if social distancing is implemented. Democrats have raised serious concerns, however.
“I have not yet seen, personally … a safety plan to protect those people who have to come back to the Capitol in order for us to do anything,” said senior Democratic Senator Patty Murray.
“Nor a plan to make sure that we are not spreading the virus ourselves or to the employees,” she said.
The Office of Attending Physician issued guidance to senators advising them to wear masks during committee meetings and limit the number of staffers attending such meetings.
Republicans have stressed that the Senate must get on with its business despite the pandemic.
“I don’t begrudge a senator expressing their personal concerns, but that shouldn’t mean that the entire Senate ceases to function,” said Republican John Cornyn.
“We’re going to try really very hard to make sure everybody is safe. And not exposed.”
President Trump has said there will soon be 5 million tests a day in the U.S.
Darragh Roche is a journalist covering U.S. politics and media