Coronavirus Information and FAQs

Click here for information about the Office of the Attending Physician's testing program for SARS CoV2 coronavirus detection. 

Click here for the most recent issued guidance for House offices.

2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Information about the coronavirus is changing rapidly. For the most up to date and authoritative information about the coronavirus, symptoms, prevention and treatment, and the CDC’s response, please refer to the CDC website. The Committee on House Administration (CHA) recommends that Members and their staff monitor the official social media platforms of your state and local government and health officials for the most current information specific to your districts.

For additional information of particular interest to the House community, please visit the website of the Office of the Attending Physician.  In particular, CHA encourages Members and staff to watch the videos recorded by the Attending Physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, which answer frequently asked questions and address practical prevention techniques. Those videos are available below and on OAP’s website.

Resources:


Prevention

The Office of Attending Physician (OAP) in concert with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, and state and local health departments continues to aggressively monitor and engage the current COVID-19 coronavirus threat. While general recommendations and updates may be found at the OAP website via Senate, House, Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police intranet sites, the following mitigation actions are prudent to reinforce at this time. These suggestions reflect best judgement of an evolving circumstance that may require revision as more experience with the SARS-CoV-2 infection is gained.

Pandemic Social Distancing and Daily Health Screening Implementation Guidelines for Congressional Offices and Work Centers (2/23/2021)

Below is an abbreviated version. Full guidelines are available with the link provided.

The following guidelines provide for Pandemic Social Distancing and Daily Health Screening implementation in Congressional workplaces. These guidelines, version 4.5, are based on current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices to minimize risk of coronavirus transmission in the workplace through use of social distancing measures, face cover wear, daily screening of employee health prior to reporting for duty, incorporation of aerosol based viral transmission considerations, incorporation of the recent cumulative minutes of exposure to a COVID 19 case rules with regard to quarantine decisions, recent change to CDC guidelines concerning quarantine in those who have completed coronavirus vaccination and recent National coronavirus policy guidance health relevant to the ongoing decreasing coronavirus case rates in the nation and in this region. These guidelines contain hyperlinks to primary references indicated in the text that you can utilize with the electronic version of this document.

Limitations in assembly of groups that will affect restaurants, supermarkets, and family gatherings have been subject to recent revisions depending on the jurisdiction in conjunction with transmission rates of coronavirus cases. DC government Occupancy Guidelines In the recent weeks, we have seen a 29% overall decrease in cases throughout the United States, a 30% decrease in daily reported deaths, and a 16% decrease in hospitalizations. This version, 4.5, also incorporates a revised directive relevant to all House office spaces and the Hall of the House of December 15, 2020 requiring increased attention to mask wear especially when a person is speaking at a microphone following recognition by a Chair or Presiding Officer and the January 12, 2021 imposition of fines for House of Representatives mask wear violations. It is especially important to continue efforts reducing attendance at in person meetings to the absolute minimum necessary personnel where possible and consistent with legislative operations.

The Food and Drug Administration recently provided Emergency Use Authorization to the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 11, 2020 COVID 19 Vaccine. On December 18, 2020, the Moderna coronavirus vaccine was also granted Emergency Use Authorization. A limited vaccination program utilizing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to support a Continuity of Government requirement is now underway at the US Capitol. Presently, there are no adjustments to social distance guidelines, mask wear use, or telework status with the introduction of vaccines to our community.  Approximately 5.7% of Americans have received both required injections and 13.1% have received at least one injection States' vaccine participation. It is not yet known if vaccines, approved to decrease the symptoms and severity of coronavirus infection, will prevent a person from acquiring infection or transmitting infection to others. It is critical that even vaccinated individuals maintain adherence to their social distancing practices and mask wear. It is still possible to become infected with virus even after completing the vaccinations.

Increasingly, genetic variations of the coronavirus, associated with substantially increased risk of viral transmission (U.K Variant) and poor outcomes (UK and South African Variants), are being identified. Brazil Coronavirus Variant in USA UK Coronavirus Variant likely to dominate USA This has led to very significant changes in travel restrictions and increased emphasis on medical grade face mask wear (see section 3.6) to reduce transmission and increased pace of vaccination in the United States. The Race for More and Better Masks It is likely that some of these new genetic coronavirus variants will be dominant in the United States. New Corona Virus Variants Although there are conflicting reports of decreased vaccine effectiveness for these coronavirus variants, the vaccines still protect against severe outcomes from infection (death and hospitalization). There is variable success against protecting against mild or moderate symptomatic infection depending on the specific vaccine and variant Pfizer vaccine protects against new coronavirus variant. There are potential concerns for synthetic antibodies being developed as drugs to treat those with infection due to the emergence of these coronavirus variants South African Variant threatens antibody drug effectiveness.

Wearing an approved, well-fitted, face covering, when in the company of another person, is a critical necessity while occupying an indoor space at the Capitol. The Centers for Disease Control revised mask wear guidelines on February 18, 2021 specifying wearing a face cover in any public setting CDC Mask Wear Guidelines. Additional emphasis provided regarding a well-fitting mask and the imperative that masks work best when all individuals wear masks. In summary, mask wear options include

1. Reduce the Number of Staff in the Work Center. Each Office (Member office, Committee group, Support office) should continue to commit to established social distancing guidelines when considering in office staffing plans. In circumstances where social distancing standards are unable to be met in an office space, emphasis should be placed on limiting the number of personnel physically present in a work center. The balance of personnel may be assigned to a telework or remote work capacity. The contribution of telework to office productivity will continue indefinitely for significant numbers of staff.

2. Use Telework or Staggered Schedules. Office Staff in excess of the maximum occupancy of the work center (see section 5.1) should be in a telework status. Telework status is among the best options to limit individual risk of disease from workplace encounters. Continued reliance on telework is very important at this time and should be promoted. Staff may be rotated between a telework and in- office status or individual staff arrival and departure work hours may be staggered as determined by individual Offices. Prolonged telework practices may be necessary for certain individuals who fall into conventionally recognized medical risk groups.

3. Use of Face Covers.

  1. Current Evidence and Consensus. Additional information has been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, international public health organizations, regional government officials, scientific organizations and private industry that better inform best practices and the case for individual mask (a face covering consisting of a surgical mask or a cloth based mask that covers the nose and mouth completely) use. On July 16, 2020 The Director of the CDC changed the Nation’s focus on face covering use to an essential civic duty of all Americans to adopt Universal Mask Wear whenever an individual is in public.
  2. Encourage Use of Face Coverings. Unless required by specific Agency policy, the use of face coverings (approved surgical masks or cloth face covers) completely covering the nose and mouth is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to be worn when an individual is in an enclosed, Congressional space with at least one other person present.
  3. Face coverings are NOT required in indoor spaces when an individual is alone. Limited exceptions are also permissible. For example, if addressing the Chair in a House committee room during an event or as part of recognition by a Presiding Officer in the Hall of the House momentary removal to facilitate recognition is an option, followed by immediate replacement of the face cover for the remainder of the address. Individuals with an authorized medical exemption to face covering use due to a specific health reason are not required to wear a covering (a face shield must be used as an alternative in these limited situations). However, six-foot minimum separation must be accommodated in all cases of exemption. 
  4. Face coverings are recommended but not required in outdoor settings when six-foot separation between individuals is able to be maintained. If unable to maintain separation in outdoor public spaces, the use of face coverings is STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. A face cover should be worn in any gathering of people, even when conducted outside.
  5. Use of a face covering is a separate secondary method of lowering transmission risk. It is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Even if you wear a face covering, every effort should be made adhere to six-foot social distancing guidelines.
  6. Selection of Face Coverings: Face coverings approved for use may consist of multiple fabric layers fashioned into a well-fitting mask, a surgical mask (minimum 3-layer polyester), or a multiple fabric layer neck tube mask, “gaiter”. Face covers that contain an unfiltered exhalation valve or single fabric layer “gaiters” must not be used. In November 2020, CDC mask guidance was amended to introduce a new aspect of mask wear to serve not only for virus source control but to “filter for protectionCDC Masking Science. With the emergence of more virulent strains of coronavirus in many nations now and in the United States, individuals should transition to medical grade masks for filtration rather than rely upon cloth face covers as now allowed in CDC guidance. (An excellent example is the FDA approved KN95 headband style mask FDA authorized KN 95 respirator masks.) I have provided a previous link to additional considerations for personal protection and mask wear on my website Mask Wear Update. Attention should be given to correct application to the face to cover the nose and mouth and fit the face well.

 4. Screen Visitors. Official Visitors should use hand sanitizer upon entry and prior to departure, and utilize a face covering for the duration of their visit. Sponsoring Offices should ask scheduled visitors to state they have completed the Health Screening Inventory (see page 16) before arrival at the Capitol on the day of their visit or committee appearance and answered “no” to all questions.

5. Maintain Meaningful Social Distancing Standards.

  1. Determine Maximum Occupancy of Each Work Center or Other Space. Each Office should determine the maximum number of individuals that can safely occupy a work center or other space and conduct their work where possible without exceeding social distancing standards (six-foot separation). This number will be the maximum allowable number of individuals in the office at any given time. Maximum occupancy should also be calculated for each reception room, hearing room or conference room.
  2. Avoid Crowding at Dining Facilities. Each Office should consider regulating business practices related to mealtimes and other breaks. These should be staggered throughout the day rather than at socially conventional times, such as 12 PM to 1 PM. If able, staff should be encouraged to bring food from home or use ‘grab and go’ options to promote dining at their workstation. This will minimize assembly of individuals at locations such as dining facilities, etc. dining facility should not serve as a location for congregation, when a meal or beverage is consumed individual should leave the area.
  3. Avoid Communal Food and Beverage Stations. Each Office should evaluate general food and beverage procedures. Communal coffee and water dispensers should be subject to the cleaning of commonly touched surfaces in between each individual user. Communal meal platters, such as continental breakfast trays, should also be avoided. Self-service, commonly shared utensils, plates, cups, etc. should be removed from this area. Examples of good practices to minimize use of shared bulk containers include sealed, single serving packets of sweeteners, creamers, condiments, etc. Staff should be encouraged to utilize their own personal utensils, plates, cups, etc., or designate these items from office supplies such that they will not be shared by other individuals. Contactless, water fountains and water bottle refilling stations could also be considered.
  4. Modify Office Layouts and Flow Patterns. Each Office should alter the physical layout of work center spaces where possible in accordance with any Architect of the Capitol or Chief Administrative Officer parameters to maximize 6-foot distancing between Members, staff, and visitors. Additionally, offices should re-assess office flow patterns to limit intra-office and visitor traffic as much as possible. Selective removal of furniture may be helpful to minimize circumstances where individuals are seated too close together.
  5. Review your individual risk associated with travel and reduce it: Travel in commercial travel systems places you at increased risk for acquiring coronavirus due to crowding. Areas subject to choke points and crowding include gates, terminals, jetways, train and bus stations, aircraft seating configurations, and vehicle boarding and disembarkation. Observed crowd compliance with social distancing guidelines in these situations is highly variable. If you are a passenger in a commercial transportation vehicle such as aircraft, buses, or trains, do not consume beverages or meals that would require you to remove your face mask or face shield. You need to take personal interest in your protective stance. Wherever possible, wear a face shield in addition to a face cover if you anticipate close crowding. During this time of dramatic and sustained increase in coronavirus transmission nationally, if you can remain in the Washington, DC region and avoid travel, that would be preferable.

6. Health Monitoring of the Work Force.

  1. Participation in a Health Monitoring Program. Participation in a health monitoring program is required for all Congressional employees unless impacted by a collective bargaining agreement or in those instances where employment is exclusively by telework or at an isolated/solitary occupancy duty station. Employees already participating in an employer health monitoring program (for example US Capitol Police) do not have additional health monitoring requirements or reporting obligations.
  2. Work Center Monitor. Each Office should assign an individual as Work Center Monitor in each work center. This person will have the responsibility of coordinating results of the health screening inventory from all employees in their assigned work center on a daily basis. Since most offices have an Emergency Coordinator role already identified, that individual is an example that may be designated for that purpose. In large organizations another functional area (for example Human Resource section) may serve as the Work Center Monitor.
  3. Employee Self-Monitoring Procedures
  4. Workplace Monitoring. Individual work centers will monitor for the appearance of respiratory symptoms such as frequent coughing or sneezing. Individual work centers will need to develop their own guidance with regard to actions consistent with the general approach that individuals who are visibly ill with a respiratory illness (fever, cough, sneezing, vomiting, shortness of breath, other signs such as loss of the ability to taste or smell, etc.) should not be present in the workplace until they have recovered. Self-reporting of symptoms by individuals is encouraged.
  5. Return to Work. During the period of this Pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control has requested whenever possible, Offices should not require a doctor’s note to return to the workplace after resolution of their symptoms but will rely upon the individual’s assurance that they have consulted with their primary care provider. (This request is based on the need to diminish appointment burdens on medical resources for verification of wellness that compete with individuals seeking access for initial evaluation of illness where availability of health resources is impacted by the pandemic). Each individual work center should review their policies on requiring doctor’s notes to return the individual to duty.

For House Offices

Guidance:

Resources:


Watch: Medical Equipment for your Home - Pulse Oximeters

Watch: Medical Equipment for your Home - Thermometers

Watch: Attending Physician Coronavirus Update (4/15/2020)

Watch: Coronavirus Update (4/8/2020)

Watch: Coronavirus Update and Homemade Mask Demonstration (4/7/2020)

Watch: Coronavirus Update (4/1/20)

Watch: OAP Guidance - Mask Usage (4/1/20)

Watch: OAP Coronavirus Update (3/13/2020)

Watch: OAP Coronavirus Update (3/6/2020)

Watch: Coronavirus Update - Office of the Attending Physician (3/2/2020)

Watch: Overview of the Coronavirus, guidance from the Attending Physician

Watch: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions