As the House Returns, Davis Outlines Its Shortcomings in Protecting Essential Workers
WASHINGTON – Committee on House Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) today sent a letter to Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) regarding the House's continued failure to implement a plan to protect essential workers. As the House returns this week for another regular session, Davis outlines a number of issues that still need to be addressed nearly 25 weeks after the House began feeling the impact of COVID-19. This letter follows three previous letters and a staff memo sent to the majority since May requesting a plan to reopen the House. It also comes as the White House reopens for tours and the Smithsonian announces the reopening of multiple museums this week.
"Members are set to return this week again without a comprehensive plan from the majority to reopen the Capitol complex," said Davis. "As we saw in July, the return of members means more staff, press, and others frequenting the Hill. The House has been out of session for the last six weeks yet there has been no movement to establish testing, additional guidance for offices and support services, or a plan to re-welcome visitors, which has been done by the White House and several museums within the Smithsonian. This is not the way private businesses and other governments are operating across the country and the American people deserve better from their representatives."
CLICK HERE to view the letter, which outlines the following:
The letter discusses the state of current operations and the impact they are having on the House. Key excerpt:
"The procedural changes increased House operational productivity, but were accompanied by numerous unsustainable elements, including a continued lack of Member-to-Member interaction, concerns regarding minority engagement, and unreliable technology performance. Additionally – and most importantly – these changes are statutorily temporary. During these initial months, the Office of the Attending Physician [OAP] continually provided health and safety guidance but, as guidance (not as regulation), Member offices remained in a limbo of uncertain safety compliance, and, to this day, remain confused about the proper use of MRA funds for PPE and office space/safety enhancements such as plexiglass shields or layout consultations. Today, Member office guidance and financial support to combat the pandemic continues to be a point of major concern."
Implementing a Health Monitoring Program
The letter maps out a health monitoring program, such as those implemented by many private businesses, and vendors that could help establish the program needed to protect essential workers. Key excerpt:
"The essential first step to reopening the House is adoption of a wholistic health monitoring program that equally leverages personal responsibility and institutional prudence. The current system, a 5-point questionnaire, is not sufficient to ensure the safety of our Members and staff – particularly when there is no training or incentives in place to ensure truthful compliance. Furthermore, no support has been provided to automate the process to help drive compliance."
Establish Level of Support Services
The letter highlights the need for a plan to establish a level of support services, such as cafeterias, IT, mail, flags, supply store, and more operations throughout the House. These offices have remained in limbo since the beginning. Key excerpt:
"With consistent PPE access and community health insight provided by a health monitoring program, a staged reopening plan must be designed and communicated throughout all levels of house operations and management to help guide the House into its future recovery. Similar to the staged re-openings taking place across the country, each stage needs to be based on clear health benchmarks and include defined levels of House support services."
Welcome Back Visitors
The letter stresses the need for a comprehensive plan to resume public access to the U.S. Capitol complex and outlines a way to safely to re-welcome visitors, like the White House and several other museums within the Smithsonian have done. Key excerpt:
"The House is equally equipped to adapt. Member schedulers can partner with HIR to develop member website-based reservation portals to manage in-person meetings, reserve meeting space, and help inform cleaning patterns. In order to follow social distancing guidelines offices need space to hold meetings outside of their personal offices. Large rooms within the House Office Buildings can be reconfigured into social distant meeting hubs, including such areas as cafeteria dining rooms, caucus rooms, the CVC auditorium, and numerous outdoor venues including The Spirit of Justice Park. Prior to the pandemic, large-format meeting room space was difficult to reserve and often, demand exceeded supply. By adopting a new reservation process, reformatting current House venues into meeting hubs, and adopting a room density monitoring system we can meet our Members’ demands and experiment with ways to continually modernize House operations."