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How The Coronavirus Has Affected Individual Members Of Congress

Updated on September 21 at 11:45 a.m. ET

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the daily work of Congress.

Starting in March, House and Senate leaders delayed bringing back members for several weeks as public health guidelines recommended social distancing because of the outbreak.

The Senate returned in May, but the much larger House still stayed mostly away as a result of advice from the attending physician to Congress. That same month, the House approved historic rule changes allowing remote voting and hearings.

The virus has infected more than a dozen lawmakers and forced dozens more to self-quarantine. More than 100 members of their staffs and Capitol Hill workers have tested positive. And it remains an ongoing threat.

Two Republican lawmakers, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, were the first members of Congress to announce self-quarantines on March 8. Both had attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., a few days earlier. An attendee at the conference had fallen ill, its organizers revealed.


The following week, the first two members of Congress said they tested positive for the coronavirus. Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams of Utah both said they developed symptoms after a March 14 vote on a coronavirus relief package.

Since that time, dozens more lawmakers entered self-quarantine as a result of exposure to someone who was sick, including fellow members of Congress, constituents and dignitaries.

And by September, at least 110 Capitol workers have reported a positive test or were presumed so, including 43 members of the U.S. Capitol Police. On July 24, Gary Tibbetts, a longtime staffer for Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, died from COVID-19.

And some lawmakers have taken antibody tests to see if they were previously ill. Among them, Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania both said they tested positive months after experiencing symptoms in the spring.

To stem the flow of new cases, both chambers have issued new social distancing guidance. Also, the U.S. Capitol remains closed to public tours and open only to members, staff, press and official business visitors.

In late July, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also issued a new mask mandate after Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who has often rejected mask protocols, tested positive for the coronavirus. Gohmert had attended several hearings a day before testing and returned to the Capitol following a White House screening that caught his infection.

Gohmert's case triggered quarantines for five House members, including Arizona Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva. Days later, Grijalva tested positive, but fully recovered symptom free.

This story was originally published on April 15, 2020.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 15, 2020 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Rep. Joe Cunningham of South Carolina as a Republican. He is a Democrat.