The House works from home

“Our dining table is now sort of a command center,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Who spent the break holding conference calls after conference calls, including one with Sen. Tina Smith, another Minnesota democrat, thousands of attendees .

According to lawmakers and adjutants, the experience was more than just replacing the convention ritual of face-to-face meetings with conference calls. It is a radical change for a governing body that is based on personal interaction, especially for senior members who are used to being surrounded by employees and being followed by the press in the Capitol.

And it is an enormous technological challenge for an institution that was largely stuck in the 19th century. Members still receive pagers after the swearing in, and most employees are not trained in secure video conferencing, let alone operating a tele-town hall for a thousand people.

MP Max Rose – a train driver in Afghanistan before coming to Congress last year – has turned his New York City home into a one-man war room amid the epicenter of the national outbreak. In Staten Island alone, where Rose lives, the number of cases rose to 935 on Tuesday.

In the last week The newcomer Democrat helped secure the first test site in New York City in his district and urged the White House and state officials to speed up procedural steps such as FDA approval.

“We’re building the plane while we’re flying it,” said Rose.

Last week Rose went out and visited the test site, where he and others have helped recruit former or retired healthcare workers to sign up for shifts. He also stepped up public relations and dialed into a local Fox 5 station to calm his district: “Now we’re waging a virus, not an army,” he said to the anchor.

The fight has come particularly close to home for several members who have been quarantined following a possible disclosure. MP John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Who quarantined this weekend, has participated in a number of conference calls, local television appearances, and has even taught an online course at a local university.

MP Don Beyer (D-Va.) Used a video conferencing system to appear on CNN while he was quarantined at home and discussed his failed attempt to get a test from the house doctor’s office to find out if he was personally infected with the virus. After showing no symptoms of the virus, Beyer will hold a virtual town hall on Tuesday.

Things don’t go smoothly: At a conference call on Friday with the Congressional Black Caucus, for example, chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) Had to adjust immediately when she was told that other speakers were not doing this. I am not on the call.

However, this is a particularly important task for first-time lawmakers who monitor resources and communication for their districts on their first redial attempt – especially now that the response to the virus is likely to dominate their campaigns.

MP Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) Virtually visited the Virginia Commonwealth University hospital system and spoke to the administrators by video call. Pediatrician Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) Announced a live Facebook event where she and her little son will answer children’s questions about the coronavirus outbreak. MP Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) Hosted a virtual story time on Instagram, during which she and her stepdaughter read “The Story of Coretta Scott King”.

It is still unclear when the house will return to Washington.

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