January 12, 2021

Around the nation: 3 House lawmakers test positive for coronavirus after Capitol lockdown

Daily Briefing

    Brian Monahan, Congress's attending physician, has warned members of Congress that they may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus virus while they were locked down together amid rioting that occurred at the Capitol on Wednesday, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia and Texas.

    • District of Columbia: HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday extended the federal government's public health emergency (PHE) declaration for America's coronavirus epidemic until April 21. The PHE had been scheduled to expire on Jan. 21. The extension allows CMS and other agencies to preserve regulatory flexibilities and increased funding put in place under the PHE (King, FierceHealthcare, 1/8; Cohrs, Modern Healthcare, 1/8).
    • District of Columbia: Brian Monahan, Congress's attending physician, in an email sent to members of Congress on Sunday warned that the lawmakers may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus when they were locked down together amid rioting that occurred at the Capitol. "On Wednesday, Jan. 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in a room located in a large committee hearing space," Monahan wrote, adding, "During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection." Monahan advised lawmakers to monitor themselves for symptoms of Covid-19, wear face masks, practice physical distancing, and "obtain [a reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction coronavirus test] [this] week as a precaution." So far this week, Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) issued separate announcements that they each had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to other federal lawmakers—some of whom were not wearing masks, according to Coleman, Jayapal, and Schneider —during the lockdown. In a release, Coleman's office said Coleman "believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots" (Armus, “Morning Mix,” Washington Post, 1/12; Firozi et al., Washington Post, 1/10; Mastrangelo, The Hill, 1/10; Coleman tweet, 1/11; Coleman release, 1/11).
    • Texas: Texas Health Resources on Thursday began postponing nonemergency surgeries at its 14 hospitals throughout the state. According to The Dallas Morning News, Texas Health Resources said it is suspending nonemergency surgeries "until further notice" because of an influx of Covid-19 patients. "This was a significant decision on our part and illustrates how serious the situation is at our hospitals throughout the region," Stephen O'Brien, a Texas Health spokesperson, told the Morning News. "Covid-19 has filled our hospitals with very sick and dying people, and we have taken this step to help deal with this high volume of critically ill patients" (Paavola, Becker's Hospital Review, 1/7; Schnurman, The Dallas Morning News, 1/5).

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