Hoyer suggests COVID-19 rules will stay — and might get tougher

Hoyer suggests COVID-19 rules will stay — and might get tougher
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Hoyer affirms House will vote Sept. 27 on bipartisan infrastructure bill House to act on debt ceiling next week MORE (D-Md.) said Tuesday that the COVID-19 protocols governing the House will remain in place indefinitely, given the spread of the delta variant, and might even get tougher as the number of cases increases around the country.

"I think additional precautions are merited," the second-ranking House Democrat said during a weekly press briefing, conducted over Zoom.

"The continuation of the protocols that have been in place ... should stay in place until such time as we have some guidance that the virus — particularly the delta variant, which seems so transmissible, so easily transmissible — has abated," he said.

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Hoyer noted that a number of lawmakers have returned to wearing masks on the House floor. And citing the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — which is soon expected to advise indoor mask-wearing, even for vaccinated people, in certain areas of the country — he predicted the Capitol physician will make a similar recommendation for the House chamber once again.

"I've seen many members begin to wear a mask back on the floor of the House. I think I will do the same. And I think that's perhaps the advice that Dr. Monahan will give us as well, based on the CDC recommendations," Hoyer told reporters, referring to Capitol physician Brian Monahan.

"But the CDC is clearly concerned that the virus is spiking; the unvaccinated are very vulnerable; and even members — one from Florida, one from Louisiana ... have become infected," Hoyer said.

The reference was to Rep. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE, a Florida Republican who had been vaccinated, and Rep. Clay HigginsGlen (Clay) Clay HigginsNY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case Florida Democrat becomes latest breakthrough COVID-19 case in House Louisiana delegation asks for additional relief funding after Ida MORE, a Louisiana Republican who has not revealed his vaccine status. Both lawmakers revealed recently that they've been infected by the virus.

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.) has already authorized remote voting through Aug. 17 — a window that's likely to be extended with the delta variant. The increase in cases also means the Capitol Visitors Center is likely to remain closed to the public until the threat has subsided.

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Complicating the return to normalcy in the Capitol, a number of Republican lawmakers have either said they will not get the vaccine or are declining to reveal their vaccine status. Those Republicans have defended their positions, saying it's a matter of medical privacy.

Hoyer, joining other Democratic leaders and a growing number of Republicans, is urging those hold-outs to reconsider.

"It's unfortunate that all of them have not been vaccinated," Hoyer said.