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 John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE and administration officials believe will be the deadliest weeks of the pandemic.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I have never done so many conference calls in my life,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingMemorial Day weekend deals latest economic blow to travel industry Bipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day 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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Grassley, Leahy urge Roberts to permanently air Supreme Court arguments Democrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog MORE (R-Iowa) tweeted that he and his wife haven’t left their farm in Iowa in nine days.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Burr decision sends shock waves through Senate Lawmakers move to boost federal cybersecurity in annual defense bill 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) MoranMemorial Day during COVID-19: How to aid our country's veterans Pass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns 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 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.) 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 PaulSecond senator tests positive for coronavirus antibodies Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Tim Kaine tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies 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 RomneyDemocrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog Coronavirus and America's economic miracle Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project MORE (R-Utah) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA 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 FeinsteinGraham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter 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 MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas 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 HironoFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers Conservative group launches campaign accusing Democrats of hypocrisy on Kavanuagh, Biden 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 BrownHillicon 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 Democratic senators urge regulators to investigate Instacart over 'tip baiting' Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (D-Ohio), posted a photo of his “Zoom attire” for Monday: “Suit coat and sweats.”

When Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyMissouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Khanna says President Trump threatening violence against US citizens; Trump terminating relationship with WHO Senators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day 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 ShermanHouse passes bill that would sanction Chinese officials over Xinjiang camps Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Pelosi says House is looking at bill that could delist some Chinese companies from US stock exchanges 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.”