Tourists visit the Capitol Visitors Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Congress is shutting the Capitol to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday, a rare step that underscores the growing gravity with which the government is reacting to the viral outbreak.
Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Photo: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Georgia members of Congress shutter offices amid coronavirus

U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, Tom Graves, John Lewis, Hank Johnson, Rick Allen, Lucy McBath and Barry Loudermilk all announced that employees have begun to work from home.

“While we will continue to have some staff at our D.C. and district offices, we will utilize technology to conduct the majority of our work,” Loudermilk, a Republican from Cassville, said. “Out of an abundance of caution, some staffers in D.C. who take public transportation to get to work, will work remotely, and some in-person meetings will be rescheduled to phone calls.”

The changes mostly affect members’ Washington offices that have rosters of full-time staff that normally report to the office each day. Each member also has district offices in Georgia, but many of those employees already work remotely.

Loeffler on Tuesday was the latest to announce that all of her office locations are closed to visitors and staff are working remotely.

“While the physical offices may be closed, services and assistance for Georgians will not be disrupted,” she said in a statement. “My staff is working at full capacity and will continue to answer questions and provide information as we monitor the spread of this outbreak.”

Allen, R-Evans, said Friday that visitors are no longer allowed at his four district offices in Augusta, Dublin, Statesboro and Vidalia.

Johnson, a Democrat from Lithonia, said his Washington office is closed and his Decatur office is open for staff only.

Lewis’ Washington office is closed until further notice and all staffers are working from home. The congressman, who is 80 and undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer, is among those at highest risk for serious illness if he is exposed to COVID-19.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s office said all staff meetings are being held over the phone or email. His office is also drafting a telework plan in the case that it becomes a necessity. 

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter was the only member from Georgia to report that his office is operating as normal for now. A spokeswoman for the Pooler Republican said he will adhere to any directives from congressional leaders or public health officials.

The U.S. Capitol and nearby House and Senate office buildings are closed to visitors through April 1. Only elected officials, staff, credentialed media and people arriving on official business will be allowed access.

Members of Congress from Georgia and beyond have gone beyond that, shutting down their offices as an additional precaution after several lawmakers discovered they or a staff member were exposed to people who tested positive for the respiratory virus.

Collins, a Republican from Gainesville, showed no symptoms but decided to self-quarantine after he came in contact with a man who had coronavirus during a recent conference for conservative activists. Two other members of his staff also quarantined.

This article has been updated as additional Georgia members of Congress announce office closures.

» THE LATEST: Complete coverage of coronavirus in Georgia

 

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About the Author

Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell is the AJC’s Washington correspondent.
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