McConnell: 'Congress will continue to do our work' amid coronavirus

McConnell: 'Congress will continue to do our work' amid coronavirus
© Bonnie Cash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday threw his support behind a decision to limit public access to the Capitol while signaling the Senate will otherwise continue business as normal.

"Congress will continue to do our work. Offices will be able to welcome constituents and visitors for meetings and official business by appointment," McConnell said from the Senate floor. 

"But in deference to the experts, and to protect the health of the many Americans who travel to our nation’s capital, tourism and nonofficial access to the Capitol and the complex will be put on pause," he added.

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McConnell's comments come after new restrictions were issued for visiting the Capitol complex. In addition to suspending Capitol tours, access to the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings "will be limited to members, staff, credentialed press and official business visitors."

“Their decision was made in close consultation with the Attending Physician of the United States Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan. I fully support the decision of these nonpartisan officers," McConnell added.

McConnell's comments come after the Capitol Hill community got its first case of coronavirus when 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 (D-Wash.) announced that a staffer had tested positive.

Congressional leadership has been under growing pressure to limit access to the building, or change the congressional schedule, to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Anxiety on Capitol Hill has been particularly high given the advanced age of a large swath of lawmakers. 

The House has held several meetings with the attending physician to try to encourage best practices including hand-washing, avoiding shaking hands and "social distancing." But avoiding crowds in the Capitol has been difficult.

Sens. 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) and 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.) announced on Thursday that they would temporarily close their Washington, D.C., offices and let their staff telework.