WASHINGTON – Social distancing and mask guidelines in the House are set to remain the same despite most of Congress being vaccinated for COVID-19, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked about the reopening of the House.
In a statement sent Monday, Pelosi shared that the Office of the Attending Physician encouraged members to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing, and advised House members who haven’t received the vaccine to get it.
“This information will inform future recommendations the OAP may have regarding the modification or relaxation of existing social distancing guidelines, revising/accelerating the cohort House Floor voting procedures and other aspects of Congressional operations involving committee meetings and reopening of other processes,” Dr. Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress, said according to Pelosi’s statement. “The more people that are vaccinated, the quicker we can return to normal.”
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The update to House Democrats came days after McCarthy’s letter asking about Pelosi’s plans to reopen the House, referring to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s recent easing of mask and social distancing guidelines as more Americans get vaccinated.
“Simply put: it’s time that we return to regular order,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said. “House Republicans are eager for the chance to reopen the People’s House, restore America’s voice in Congress, and work day in and day out to address the many concerns our constituents face.”
As of March 10, roughly 75% of House members had been fully vaccinated, according to McCarthy’s letter, a figure that’s left many concerned.
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“Over 70 million people voted for the former president, so if 30 million to 35 million people decide they’re not going to get vaccinated, it makes attaining herd immunity even that much harder,” Jonathan Reiner, CNN medical analyst, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront” on Monday. “We can have huge pockets of active virus in this country for a very long period of time until we get everyone vaccinated, which is why it’s so important for our leaders to reach out to people, reach out to people who are young, reach out to the conservative community and reach out to communities of color.”
Members of Congress have had access to the COVID vaccine since December, when it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Congress also has its own vaccine supply, making it available to every member; however, still 1 in 4 members of the House has not received any vaccine doses.
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While some members have been vocal about their resistance to getting the vaccine, including Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., many have remained silent on whether they’ll get the vaccine or why they won’t.
When asked about whether he was vaccinated, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told reporters “Not yet,” but wouldn’t say whether he would get the vaccine or not.
“I’m still looking, I’m listening to my doctor,” Scott added.
Polling indicates partisan support for vaccine
Republicans’ silence on getting the vaccine raises concerns after several polls have shown Americans who identify with the party are significantly less likely to get the vaccine.
A recent CBS News poll found that only 24% of Republicans said they would get the vaccine when they’re eligible, while 45% of Democrats said they would. Only 10% of Democrats said they wouldn’t get the vaccine, compared to 33% of Republicans.
Voters for former President Donald Trump are also less likely to get the vaccine. According to the poll, 35% of Trump supporters said they won’t get vaccinated, while only 5% of voters for President Joe Biden said they wouldn’t. Biden voters nearly doubled the number of Trump voters who said they’d get vaccinated. Twenty-two percent of Trump voters said they would get vaccinated compared to 47% of Biden voters.
The CBS News poll was conducted between March 10-13, with a sample size of 2,382 voters and margin of error of plus minus 2.2%.
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Recent polling has worried medical and public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, worried.
“How such a large proportion of a certain group of people would not want to get vaccinated merely because of political consideration, it makes absolutely no sense,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. “And I’ve been saying that for so long. We’ve got to dissociate political persuasion from what’s common-sense, no-brainer public health things.”