The Capitol physician advised lawmakers Wednesday to avoid large crowds of people to safeguard against the coronavirus -- even though the Capitol remains open and teeming with visitors.
The Office of the Attending Physician at the Capitol sent all member offices a memo saying “larger meeting events should be conducted via teleconference if possible" and members of Congress should "avoid mingling through large crowds of people."
The Capitol's top medical professional advised that members speaking at events, such as press conferences or community speeches, "should enter/exit via stage entrances" to avoid close contact with groups of people.
The advice comes as the Capitol, a major visitors hub, is pulsing with tourists. The Capitol Rotunda crowds remain large and at times difficult to navigate -- in stark contrast to the mood around many parts of America where parades, schools, campaign rallies and social events are all canceled to prevent the spread of the new virus.
Meanwhile, House members are missing votes, canceling congressional trips and limiting face-to-face meetings with constituents as coronavirus preparations grip the Capitol.
They are prepping their offices for teleworking, screening visitors for any signs of illness and avoiding handshaking.
At least six House members have self-quarantined for coming into contact with someone infected with the virus.
The latest is Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, who was in leadership meetings with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week and spoke at a leadership press conference Tuesday.
Beyer had dined with a coronavirus patient and is now self-quarantined.
Pelosi has rejected calls to close the Capitol. When pressed about altering the congressional schedule, Pelosi told members this week: “We are the captains of the ship. We are the last to leave.”