Pelosi invites leaders to briefing on preventing coronavirus spread in Capitol

Pelosi invites leaders to briefing on preventing coronavirus spread in Capitol
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Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Bass on filling Harris's Senate spot: 'I'll keep all my options open' Win by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP MORE (D-Calif.) has invited leaders in both chambers to a briefing with U.S. Capitol officials about ensuring the complex is prepared to respond to the spread of the coronavirus.

A senior Democratic aide said Monday that there have not been discussions of closing the public galleries or limiting Capitol tours, but the briefing is meant to go over what precautions, if any, would be taken.
 
"The focus has and will continue to be on preparedness and keeping the Congress open for the People’s business," the aide said in an email.
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate Democrats say White House isn't budging in coronavirus relief stalemate MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez's 2nd grade teacher tells her 'you've got this' ahead of DNC speech New poll shows Markey with wide lead over Kennedy in Massachusetts Lawmakers push Trump to restore full funding for National Guards responding to pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWin by QAnon believer creates new headaches for House GOP GOP leaders go into attack mode against Harris Republicans introduce bill to defend universities conducting coronavirus research against hackers MORE (R-Calif.) were all invited to the briefing.
 
McConnell said earlier Monday that discussions were underway about steps to be taken at the Capitol given the thousands of people who work in and visit the complex from all over the country on a regular basis.
 
“In regard to the Capitol, we’re in the process of determining exactly what precautions, if any, to take at the Capitol to protect those who work here and visit here,” McConnell told a group of reporters on Monday.
 
Pelosi said in a "Dear Colleague" letter to fellow Democrats over the weekend that the chief administrative officer, House sergeant-at-arms, attending physician and Architect of the Capitol are "engaged in a comprehensive, coordinated response to mitigate any impact on Congressional operations."

A memo from Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving to lawmakers and staff recommended practical prevention techniques such as encouraging people to cover their mouths when coughing, disinfect surfaces and stay home if they are sick. Irving also suggested that congressional offices consider planning for continuity of operations in the event of a widespread outbreak.
 
There is precedent for Congress shutting down access to visitors in response to a pandemic.
 
The House and Senate galleries were closed to the public during the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak in an effort to prevent additional spread of the disease. Many lawmakers were also absent at the time due to illness, according to the House historian.
 
Lawmakers are currently working on an emergency spending package to fund the federal government's response to the coronavirus. The package, which is still being negotiated, could hit the House floor as soon as this week.
 
As of Monday, six people in the U.S. — so far all in Washington state — have died from the coronavirus.