Congress’ doctor wants ‘maximal telework’ amid virus surge

Jan 3, 2022, 10:32 AM | Updated: Jan 4, 2022, 3:16 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress’ top doctor urged lawmakers Monday to move to a “maximal telework posture,” citing “unprecedented” numbers of COVID-19 cases at the Capitol that he said are mostly breakthrough infections of people already vaccinated.

The seven-day average rate of infection at the Capitol’s testing center has grown from less than 1% to more than 13%, Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician, wrote in a letter to congressional leaders obtained by The Associated Press.

Monahan said there have been “an unprecedented number of cases in the Capitol community affecting hundreds of individuals.” Citing what he said was limited sampling as of Dec. 15, he said about 61% of the cases were the new, highly contagious omicron variant while 38% were the delta variant.

While providing no figure, he said “most” cases at the Capitol are breakthroughs. Of those testing positive, 35% are asymptomatic, he said.

Monahan’s letter came as the worldwide spread of the omicron variant has prompted a deluge of COVID-19 cases, now averaging 400,000 reported new infections in the U.S. daily. The growing caseloads have caused cascading absentee rates at workplaces around the country including among schools, health care providers, airlines, police and fire departments and other essential workers, sparking concerns that disrupted services will only worsen in the near future.

“The daily case rates will increase even more substantially in the coming weeks,” Monahan warned.

Congress has been in recess since mid-December. The Senate returned Monday and held an abbreviated 17-minute session, but postponed a scheduled evening vote after Washington was hit by several inches of snow. The House was not due to return to the Capitol until next week.

Spokespersons for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not immediately have information on whether Monahan’s letter might prompt any changes in Congress’ operations. Regular lunches that Senate Democrats have together were expected to be virtual only for at least this week.

Monahan urged congressional offices and agencies — which employ thousands of food service, custodial and other workers who serve Congress — to reduce in-person activities “to the maximum extent possible” by using electronic communications instead.

Currently, the House requires lawmakers and aides to wear masks in the House chamber except when they’ve been recognized to speak and in most other settings in the Capitol and House office buildings. The Senate encourages mask wearing but doesn’t require it.

Monahan said people should wear properly fitted, medical grade KN95 masks or better. Blue surgical masks and cloth masks “must be replaced,” he said.

Mask wearing is “a critical necessity unless the individual is alone in a closed office space or eating or drinking in a food service area,” he said.

Republican lawmakers and aides from both chambers are markedly less likely than Democrats to wear masks around the Capitol, with some rejecting widespread scientific acceptance that proper mask wearing can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 infections.

Lawmakers can be fined up to $2,500 each time they don’t wear a mask on the House floor, under a resolution the chamber approved last year. All fines announced publicly so far by the House Ethics Committee for flouting that rule have been against Republicans.

Monahan said breakthrough cases have not led to any deaths or hospitalizations among vaccinated lawmakers or congressional staff.

But he said that while people who’ve received two vaccinations and a booster generally suffer mild symptoms, even those can lead to six to 12 months of “long COVID.” That could include serious cardiovascular, neurological and cognitive problems, he said.

A “reasonable estimate” is that 6% to 10% of cases could end up that way, he added.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Mourners carry the body of a victim of a mosque bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 18. 2...
Associated Press

Police: Death toll in Afghan capital mosque bombing now 21

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers killed at least 21 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 33 others, eyewitnesses and police said Thursday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack Wednesday night, the latest to strike the […]
60 minutes ago
FILE - Kimi Raikkonen, of Finland, pauses during a news conference in Concord, N.C., May 20, 2011. ...
Associated Press

Kimi Raikkonen hits pause on retirement to race NASCAR

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kimi Raikkonen retired to Switzerland at the end of last year’s Formula One season and has blissfully spent the last eight months with his young family. Did he miss racing? “Not really, no,” the 2007 F1 champion said. Yet here he is, not even a full year into retirement, and Raikkonen […]
60 minutes ago
FILE - In this image provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volod...
Associated Press

Zelenskyy to host Lviv talks with UN chief, Turkish leader

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due to host the U.N. chief and Turkey’s leader Thursday for talks on the recent deal to resume Ukraine’s grain exports, the volatile situation at a Russian-occupied nuclear power plant and efforts to help end the nearly six-month-old war. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres arrived Wednesday in […]
1 day ago
Taiwanese soldiers operate a Oerlikon 35mm twin cannon anti-aircraft gun at a base in Taiwan's sout...
Associated Press

US to hold trade talks with Taiwan, island drills military

HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) — The U.S. government will hold talks with Taiwan on a wide-ranging trade treaty in a sign of support for the self-ruled island democracy China claims as its own territory. The announcement Thursday comes after Beijing held military drills that included firing missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan following this month’s […]
1 day ago
A currency trader watches monitors near screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSP...
Associated Press

Asian stocks follow Wall St down after Fed inflation report

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Thursday after the Federal Reserve said U.S. inflation is too high, suggesting support for more aggressive interest rate hikes. Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. Oil prices edged higher. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.7% on Wednesday after notes from the Fed’s […]
1 day ago
FILE- Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) goes up high to dunk the ball during the first h...
Associated Press

LeBron James inks 2-year, $97.1 million deal with Lakers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James has agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension through the 2024-25 season with the Los Angeles Lakers, his agent announced Wednesday. Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul said the league-maximum deal makes James the highest-paid player in NBA history. His new deal includes a player option that would keep […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Sanderson Ford

Don’t let rising fuel prices stop you from traveling Arizona this summer

There's no better time to get out on the open road and see what the beautiful state of Arizona has to offer. But if the cost of gas is putting a cloud over your summer vacation plans, let Sanderson Ford help with their wide-range selection of electric vehicles.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Congress’ doctor wants ‘maximal telework’ amid virus surge