Cruz, Cotton close Senate offices

Cruz, Cotton close Senate offices
© Bonnie Cash

Sens. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' MORE (R-Ark.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown Hillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged Iranian sanction violations MORE (R-Texas) said on Thursday that they will temporarily close their offices after a staffer in Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump nominee for Consumer Product Safety Commission involved in CDC guidance shelving: AP Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE’s (D-Wash.) office tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The decisions underscore the growing concern about a widespread outbreak on Capitol Hill, which got its first confirmed case on Wednesday night.

“In response to reports that an aide from another Senate office has tested positive for COVID-19, Sen. Cruz has temporarily closed the D.C. office out of an abundance of caution to protect the health and welfare of staff, constituents, and colleagues in Congress,” Cruz’s office said in a statement.

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Cruz is currently quarantined after being exposed to an individual with the virus; the rest of his staff will work remotely. The senator's office says he is healthy, and his self-quarantine is scheduled to end Thursday night.

Cotton added in a statement that he was closing his office "effectively immediately."

"An aide in another Senate office has tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus; other congressional employees are likely to test positive in the days ahead. The most sensible course of action for the public and the congressional workforce under the circumstances is for my staff to telecommute," Cotton added.

Cotton said his Washington, D.C., office will remain closed throughout a one-week recess set to start on Monday.

Neither Cotton's nor Cruz's office are in the same Senate office building as Cantwell — the GOP senators offices are in Russell, Cantwell's is in Hart — but the decision underscores the growing anxiety on Capitol Hill. 

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It's the latest change as staff and lawmakers try to prevent a widespread outbreak on Capitol Hill. The advanced age of most lawmakers, as well as the close proximity they have to tourists, has sparked days of anxiety about what if, any steps, would be taken to limit access to the building. 

Cantwell announced that she was closing her office for a deep clean after a staffer tested positive.

The Capitol is also set to suspend all tours until April and limit who can access the House and Senate office buildings.

"We are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public. We appreciate the understanding of those with planned visits interrupted by this necessary, but prudent, decision," Paul Irving, the House sergeant at arms, and Michael Stenger, the Senate sergeant at arms, said in a joint statement.

—Updated at 10:48 a.m.