It also comes as the coronavirus continues to spread in the D.C. area and possibly to federal workers. A Justice Department employee in the DOJ’s civil division has exhibited signs of the coronavirus and is self-quarantining, according to an internal e-mail, and the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week sent employees home to work because of a suspected coronavirus case.
Washington State has been among the hardest hit states by the coronavirus and now Cantwell, the state’s junior Democratic senator, is seeing her own office affected. There are more than 350 cases of the virus in the state, and the majority of the 30-plus deaths related to coronavirus nationwide are in Washington State.
Lawmakers and aides have said for weeks that a case of coronavirus in the Capitol was all but inevitable. The challenge, they say, is preventing the spread in the massive complex, where hundreds of people stream in and out of House and Senate office buildings on a daily basis.
While no members of Congress have so far been diagnosed with the coronavirus, several have self-quarantined after being exposed to individuals infected with the disease. Among the lawmakers who self-quarantined are Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Reps. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).
All five Republicans are believed to have interacted with a person at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference who tested positive for the virus.
Two Democrats, Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Julia Brownley of California, also announced this week they would be self-quarantining because of possible exposure.
Democrats are preparing sweeping legislation to assist Americans infected by the coronavirus. Among the multi-billion dollar package’s provisions are paid sick leave, widespread free testing, food aid and unemployment insurance.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump announced Wednesday evening a 30-day suspension of travel from most of Europe. He also asked that Congress include a paid sick-leave mandate and tax cut in its stimulus package.
Sarah Ferris and Nancy Cook contributed to this report.