President Donald Trump dismissed reports about the Capitol’s lack of tests for the 100 senators scheduled to return to work on Monday in a tweet that said “there is tremendous coronavirus testing capacity in Washington” despite multiple reports suggesting otherwise. As Axios reported, word came from the Capitol’s attending physician himself, Brian Monahan, who told Republican chiefs of staff on a Thursday conference call that he lacked the equipment to do either rapid or widespread testing on the returning lawmakers. While Trump’s tweet insisted that “the 5 minute Abbott test will be used,” Monahan said that he would not be able to offer the high-speed testing being done at the White House due to a lack of supply, per two sources familiar with the conversation. “We don’t have the capability to do a large-scale test,” Monahan said.
Despite the fact that most senators, as staff mentioned to Monahan, are in the high-risk category for dying from the virus, no asymptomatic senators will be tested. Given the supply shortage, Monahan said that only people who are ill or showing symptoms of the coronavirus would be tested. “The inability to identify asymptomatic patients is one of the country’s biggest shortcomings,” Axios notes. “Until we can do that, we can never execute a system of identifying new patients early enough to limit the number of people they will infect.”
Multiple Democrats have expressed concerns about Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to have everyone return to the Capitol, which stands in contrast to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s call to delay the return of House leaders—a choice she reportedly made after warnings from Monahan. In his tweet, Trump claimed that the “tremendous” testing capacity for returning senators was also true for “the House, which should return but isn’t because of Crazy Nancy P.” During the conference call, McConnell’s chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom shared safety measures that they will be recommending such as limiting three senators to a table at lunches and the strict enforcement of social distancing guidelines—a “so-called safety plan” that a staffer with knowledge of the Senate GOP call told Axios “is literally a house of cards. So much has to go right in order for one thing not to bring it all down.”
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