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Covid-19 cases spike at U.S. Capitol among lawmakers, staff and media

An increasing number of lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19 since mid-December.
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WASHINGTON — Covid-19 has ravaged the U.S. Capitol in recent weeks, with the onsite testing center’s seven-day positivity rate jumping from 1 percent to greater than 13 percent, according to the Office of the Attending Physician.

“The coronavirus omicron variant of the SARS CoV2 coronavirus accounts for most coronavirus cases at the Capitol and elsewhere in the United States,” Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician of the Capitol, said in a letter obtained by NBC News.

The spike is consistent with rising case numbers across the country.

The Capitol offers regular testing for lawmakers, congressional staff members and the journalists who work there.

The letter attributed 61 percent of the recent positive cases at the Capitol testing center to the omicron variant of the coronavirus and 38 percent to the delta variant. Almost two-thirds of the Capitol patients, 65 percent, were symptomatic, while 35 percent were asymptomatic.

Senate Democrats are expected to hold their regular in-person lunches virtually for at least this week, a Senate Democratic source said.

A stream of lawmakers tested positive for Covid beginning in mid-December. They include House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Bobby Rush, D-Ill., and Antonio Delgado, D-N.Y., who announced their positive tests. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Chris Coons, D-Del., as well as Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., said separately that they had tested positive in the rapidly spreading pandemic wave.

Early evidence suggests that for most people, at least those who are up to date on their Covid vaccinations, the omicron variant appears to result in mild illness that can resemble the common cold.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the omicron variant accounted for 58.6 percent of all Covid cases in the country in the week that ended Dec. 25, while the delta variant accounted for 41.1 percent.

The CDC shortened its isolation recommendations last week from 10 days to five for people who have tested positive for Covid but show no symptoms.

Monahan urged lawmakers in his letter to get vaccinated and to get booster shots. He said his office has administered booster shots to over 7,500 Capitol personnel so far.