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 TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump 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 KingLeadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Republicans start turning the page on Trump era 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 GrassleyCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot Capitol physician advises lawmakers against attending dinners, receptions during COVID-19 spike Congress ends its year under shadow of COVID-19 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 RoundsRepublican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks 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) MoranIt's time for Congress to act: Save jobs and stabilize the aerospace industry Lobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans 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 McConnellPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Top GOP senator warns government funding deal unlikely this week Criminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot 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 PaulRand Paul says Fauci owes parents and students an apology over pandemic measures Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint 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 RomneyBipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Utah) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGrassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus McConnell halts in-person Republican lunches amid COVID-19 surge Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection 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 FeinsteinCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot Bottom line Incoming Congress looks more like America 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 MurkowskiPressure builds for coronavirus relief with no clear path to deal Bipartisan, bicameral group unveils 8 billion coronavirus proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - GOP angst in Georgia; confirmation fight looms 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 HironoHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation 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 BrownRare Mnuchin-Powell spat takes center stage at COVID-19 hearing Biden introduces economic team, vows swift action on struggling economy Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate MORE (D-Ohio), posted a photo of his “Zoom attire” for Monday: “Suit coat and sweats.”

When Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Defense bill among Congress's year-end scramble | Iranian scientist's assassination adds hurdles to Biden's plan on nuclear deal | Navy scrapping USS Bonhomme Richard after fire Biden faces new Iran challenges after nuclear scientist killed New Jersey to halt indoor sports, cap outside gatherings 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 ShermanOvernight Defense: Mike Rogers slated to be top House Armed Services Republican | Defense bill hits another snag | Pentagon dinged for 0M loan to trucking company using COVID funds DeLauro wins Steering Committee vote for Appropriations chair Countering China's influence in the Caribbean with a second Caribbean Basin Initiative 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.”