Many of the workers on Capitol Hill are now required to wear masks in an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the maintenance and operations of the Capitol Complex, has instructed all of its employees and contractors to wear face coverings, saying it will provide the necessary supplies. Workers will still adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for social distancing.
“During this pandemic, we will continue doing our utmost to protect the health and lives of our employees by following the guidance of the CDC and [Office of Attending Physician], which is evolving as they learn more about the virus and the disease it causes,” the Architect of the Capitol said in recently issued guidance obtained by The Hill.
“The Architect of the Capitol is now mandating face coverings while on campus, and in public spaces, as an enhancement to social distancing and personal hygiene practices. As a reminder, the Architect of the Capitol will provide face coverings to employees who are working on-site.”
Two sources confirmed to The Hill that the guidance applies only to Architect employees. While those workers are required to wear masks, no mandates have been issued for lawmakers, congressional staff or the press.
Several House lawmakers have been seen wearing masks on the floor while presiding over pro-forma sessions. But senators have not yet taken to wearing face coverings in the upper chamber.
Congress is out of session at least until May, with most lawmaker offices closed as staff work remotely.
The mandate from the Architect of the Capitol, which has 2,300 employees, is the latest step taken in hopes of mitigating the spread of the virus on Capitol Hill. In March, Congress shut down public access to the Capitol, temporarily suspending all tours.
Ahead of the House vote on the second coronavirus relief package last month, the House sergeant-at-arms and attending physician notified lawmakers of changes to voting procedures which included a requirement for all members to use hand sanitizer before entering the chamber and restricting the number of lawmakers allowed on the floor simultaneously.
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report On The Money — Will the billionaire tax survive Joe Manchin? Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Democrats prepare to grill oil execs MORE (D-Calif.) recently announced that the House will shift to a digital system to submit floor documents to help prevent members and staff from contracting or spreading COVID-19.
The CDC has revised its guidelines to recommend individuals wear a face covering in certain public settings, but it has not mandated masks for everyone in public.