The US Capitol and all House and Senate offices are being closed to the public until April 1 due to coronavirus. This news came a day after it was reported a Senate staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The Pentagon is also cancelling tours until further notice.Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Congress is shutting down the US Capitol and all House and Senate offices to the public until April 1 due to the novel coronavirus, the Associated Press reported, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on Wednesday. This move is “out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public,” the House and Senate sergeants at arms said, per AP. Lawmakers, aides, journalists, and official visitors will continue to be granted access to the buildings. This announcement came a day after it was reported an aide in the office of Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The aide was the first person connected to Congress who’s been diagnosed with the virus.
“On the advice of the Attending Physician, the senator has closed her Washington, D.C. office this week for deep cleaning and staff will be teleworking,” Cantwell’s office said in a statement. As Insider’s Eliza Relman noted, Cantwell’s office announced that the staffer had “no known contact” with the senator or other members of Congress and has been in isolation since becoming symptomatic. A number of members of Congress have self-quarantined in recent days linked to concerns they may have been exposed to the virus after it came to light that an attendee at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland last month was infected. President Donald Trump in an Oval Office speech on Wednesday night announced a 30-day travel ban on Europe, excluding Ireland and the UK, due to coronavirus. The House is set to vote on an emergency aid coronavirus bill Thursday afternoon. The Capitol and House and Senate office buildings will close to the public at 5 pm EST.
Department of Defense press secretary Alyssa Farah on Thursday morning also announced that all Pentagon public tours are cancelled until further notice. “We regret the inconvenience to our more than 2,000 visitors a week, but our key priorities are the health of our people & ensuring our ability to continue executing vital national security missions,” Farah said in a tweet.The US has reported at least 1,358 cases and confirmed 38 coronavirus deaths: 30 in Washington state, four in California, two in Florida, and one each in New Jersey and South Dakota.