US senators, many in masks, return to Washington under new virus guidance

AFP
Washington, United States Updated: May 05, 2020, 07:11 AM(IST)

Washington DC Photograph:( Others )

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Lawmakers, who under new guidelines are encouraged but not required to wear face masks, are expected to address disputes over how to confront the outbreak and mitigate the devastating economic impacts.

The US Senate convened for its first regular session in five weeks Monday in the heat of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed 68,000 Americans and left tens of millions jobless.

Lawmakers, who under new guidelines are encouraged but not required to wear face masks, are expected to address disputes over how to confront the outbreak and mitigate the devastating economic impacts.

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The Senate, with 49 of its 100 members age 65 or older and therefore considered at higher risk, gavelled in for its first full session since March 25.

"Now the time has come for us to continue conducting our nation's business in ways that are only possible with senators here in the capital," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

"The Senate's going to be as smart and safe as we possibly can, and we are going to show up for work like the essential workers that we are." 

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Republican McConnell did not wear a mask inside the chamber, but many lawmakers from both parties did. In hallways outside the chamber, nearly all senators, including McConnell, were wearing masks.

The 435-member House of Representatives opted not to return this week.

Democratic leaders who control that chamber delayed holding full sessions, citing ongoing health safety concerns and a warning by the congressional physician that the US capital had yet to sufficiently control new coronavirus cases.

Those who do return to Capitol Hill are advised by that doctor, Brian Monahan, to practice social distancing, wear masks, limit the number of in-office staff, screen visitors, use hand sanitizer, and avoid shaking hands.

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