Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus

Zoom, grocery delivery, self-isolation: How lawmakers are surviving coronavirus

A farm. A bed and breakfast. A basement.

Those are some of the places where lawmakers are trying to self-isolate, or at least socially distance, as they step up their efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outside the close, clubby quarters of Washington.

Members of Congress, dispersed across the country until at least April 20, are leaning in to social media and video conference calls as they try to keep in contact with constituents and colleagues — while also hunkering down during what President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCarthy says he told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene he disagreed with her impeachment articles against Biden Biden, Trudeau agree to meet next month Trump planned to oust acting AG to overturn Georgia election results: report MORE and administration officials believe will be the deadliest weeks of the pandemic.


“I have never done so many conference calls in my life,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingThe next pandemic may be cyber — How Biden administration can stop it Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Angus King warns of 'grave danger' of Trump revealing classified information MORE (I-Maine) said during a recent podcast interview with Maine State Chamber of Commerce officials.

King is practicing self-isolation since he left Washington late last month. He drove from Washington to Maine, where he isolated himself at the Brunswick Inn, a bed and breakfast, for a week. He’s now staying at a garage apartment on his property until Friday, though he’s still going on walks with his wife and having run-ins with constituents, albeit from a distance, that he’s documenting on Instagram.

King isn’t exhibiting symptoms but imposed a 14-day self-quarantine “just to be 1,000 percent careful,” said Matthew Felling, a spokesman for King. Felling told The Hill that King “considers himself the prevention senator.”

He isn’t alone.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Finance Committee vote on Yellen nomination scheduled for Friday MORE (R-Iowa) tweeted that he and his wife haven’t left their farm in Iowa in nine days.


“Probably stay here for another 10 days and maybe longer if the Senate doesn’t go back into session on April 20,” Grassley added Tuesday during a weekly tele-news conference. “But like everybody else, I continue my work only from a different setting.”

Sen. Mike RoundsMike RoundsSenate chaos threatens to slow Biden's agenda The GOP is in a fix: Gordian knot or existential crisis? McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (R-S.D.), whose wife started cancer treatment last year, told reporters late last month that he would self-isolate at his family farm for seven to 10 days. And Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (R-Kan.) noted in a recent interview with KMAN, a Kansas radio station, that he was isolating himself in his basement.

“I’m spending most of my day sending email, answering email, talking on the phone,” he said. “I’m not quarantined, I’m not banished totally to the basement all day long.”

The ramped-up efforts to socially distance come after senators left Washington late last month after passing a historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Biden signals he's willing to delay Trump trial MORE (R-Ky.) implemented some measures to keep senators apart, lawmakers were frequently spotted in close quarters with each other, their staffs or a smaller group of reporters.

“The virus invaded the Senate. At the end, we had three members out who were in quarantine as we voted last night. It was time, having finished the job, for us to follow the instructions the health care professionals have been giving all other Americans,” McConnell told Fox News at the time about his decision to adjourn the chamber a week before its scheduled two-week April recess.

There has been one confirmed case of the coronavirus among senators: Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-Ky.), who has ended his quarantine and announced Tuesday that he had started volunteering at a local hospital. Four House members have also tested positive for the virus, with an additional lawmaker presumed positive.

But several others have been self-quarantining because of their interactions with colleagues or other individuals who were, or were believed to have been, exposed to the virus, setting up a domino effect on Capitol Hill where the potential fallout from contracting the virus is heightened because of the age of many lawmakers.

Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden's crisis agenda hits headwinds GOP senators say only a few Republicans will vote to convict Trump For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Utah) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage Austin sworn in as nation's first Black Pentagon chief The Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment MORE (R-Utah) self-quarantined because they were around Paul, but are now out of quarantine, their spokespeople confirmed Tuesday. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader MORE (D-Calif.) said she had been tested, and her results came back negative, after she was directly exposed to colleagues who had self-quarantined and started feeling under the weather.

Lawmakers, like their constituents, are having to learn how to work from home — a dynamic that has led to a steady stream of conference calls, local interviews and frequent social media updates to provide behind-the-scenes peeks at their daily routines.

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Murkowski didn't vote for Trump, won't join Democrats Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday MORE (R-Alaska) posted a photo on Instagram of how she has turned her kitchen table into her “new ‘hunker down’ site.” Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Democratic senator raises concerns about inauguration security MORE (D-Hawaii) posted step-by-step photos for how she makes homemade paper, while Connie Schultz, a journalist and the wife of Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack MORE (D-Ohio), posted a photo of his “Zoom attire” for Monday: “Suit coat and sweats.”

When Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit MORE (D-Conn.) got a question Tuesday during a Facebook Live event that he was hosting from home about help for children who have to complete classes online, he talked about his own children continuing their schoolwork remotely.

“I sort of serve as the principal of what we call here quarantine elementary school. ... So, I sit here on my laptop with my headphones on working, doing conference calls, on the phone with colleagues ... and sitting right across from me is my second grader working equally diligently,” he said.

While most lawmakers are at home, the Capitol complex, normally jammed with tourists and advocacy groups during “fly in” season, has turned into a ghost town with many offices shuttered, entrances limited, tours suspended and staff being recommended to telework when possible.

But not every lawmaker is back in their home state for the duration of the break. A rotating cast of lawmakers has had to come to the Capitol for brief pro forma sessions.

Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanBottom line 150 House Democrats support Biden push to reenter Iran nuclear deal Democrats elect Meeks as first Black Foreign Affairs chairman MORE (D-Calif.) appeared at the latest, in the House on Tuesday, wearing a face mask while presiding over the floor.

“The surgeon general has told us all how to make masks. And I have an 11-year-old daughter ... she made this out of an old T-shirt,” he told reporters.

Asked how he was tackling other staples of quarantine life, like buying groceries, he added: “Fresh Direct delivers about a week after you ask them to. And many people familiar with what I look like would say I could go a week without food, but my family can’t.”