Hoyer suggests COVID-19 rules will stay — and might get tougher
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (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.
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 Buchanan, a Florida Republican who had been vaccinated, and Rep. Clay Higgins, 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 Pelosi (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.
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.