Blazer at the ready, Davids re­flects on life in quar­an­tine

The Kansas City Star - - News - BY BRYAN LOWRY [email protected]­clatchydc.com Bryan Lowry: 202-383-6167, @BryanLowry­3

Even be­fore Rep. Sharice Davids quar­an­tined her­self in her Over­land Park home for pos­si­ble COVID-19 ex­po­sure, she had largely switched her con­gres­sional of­fice from phys­i­cal to dig­i­tal.

And, like many of her con­stituents in Kansas’ 3rd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, she’s try­ing in her own way to set­tle in as COVID-19 rages across the planet.

“Don’t worry. I’ve got my blazer here for my of­fi­cial calls and that sort of thing,” she said in a video posted to Twit­ter last week, pick­ing up the jacket slung over her desk chair. “Like a lot of peo­ple, I’m not quite set up yet to be work­ing from home, but that’s what we’re do­ing. Every­body on my team is work­ing from home.”

The space where she does the peo­ple’s busi­ness with a lap­top has its own col­lec­tion of ran­dom items: a pair of safety glasses, a Kansas City Kansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege pen­nant, a folder with a cover photo of two golden re­triever pup­pies she uses for doc­u­ments.

“Don’t ask me how I got it,” she said.

In an in­ter­view on Fri­day, a day after she an­nounced her self-quar­an­tine, Davids joked about the box of Lucky Charms in her cab­i­net, her com­fort food of choice to take the edge from men­tal and emo­tional strain of iso­la­tion.

“It’s not just me, but a lot of us have seen our en­tire lives—it’s dif­fer­ent whether peo­ple are work­ing vir­tu­ally, whether peo­ple are in quar­an­tine— there’s an as­pect that’s dis­rup­tive,” she said.

The Kansas Demo­crat or­dered her dis­trict and Wash­ing­ton of­fice staff to be­gin work­ing from home last week. Life in Congress can be a 24-7 propo­si­tion in nor­mal times. An elected of­fi­cial shel­tered in place can be even busier.

“Some­times I feel like we’re hav­ing more meet­ings and maybe that’s be­cause we don’t have to walk any­where or drive any­where. We’re do­ing ev­ery­thing vir­tu­ally,” she said.

Her of­fice has set up a web page (https://davids.house.gov/ coro­n­avirus) to steer con­stituents to­ward pub­lic health in­for­ma­tion.

In the mean­time, she said she’s try­ing to set an ex­am­ple for those strug­gling to cope. She posted a se­cond video when she an­nounced her de­ci­sion to self-quar­an­tine, en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to stay safe at home. Davids will re­main quar­an­tined un­til March 26.

She said she’s sent Rep. Ben McA­dams, D-Utah, a mes­sage of sup­port fol­low­ing his di­ag­no­sis with the virus.

McA­dams is one of two House mem­bers, along with Florida Repub­li­can Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, to test pos­i­tive, news which prompted dozens of law­mak­ers to self-quar­an­tine.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, an­nounced Sun­day that he had also tested pos­i­tive. Paul was asymp­to­matic but was tested “out of an abun­dance of cau­tion due to his ex­ten­sive travel and events,” ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment on Twit­ter. He said he was un­aware of di­rect con­tact with an in­fected per­son.

The sit­u­a­tion raises ques­tions about the safety of Congress con­tin­u­ing to meet dur­ing the out­break.

Davids said it’s time to con­sider al­ter­na­tive ways of meet­ing and even vot­ing. The 435-mem­ber House and 100-mem­ber Se­nate don’t come close to com­ply­ing with the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion’s warn­ing against gath­er­ings larger than ten.

“We need to be fol­low­ing the di­rec­tion of our pub­lic health pro­fes­sion­als and the CDC,” Davids said. “This is part of the rea­son I’m self-quar­an­tin­ing… These are things we need to do make sure every­body is safe.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mis­souri, the Se­nate Rules Chair­man, said Thurs­day that nei­ther the House nor Se­nate would be­gin cast­ing votes re­motely.

“Not go­ing to hap­pen. The speaker doesn’t want to do it. The leader doesn’t want to do it. We are go­ing to con­tinue to vote in per­son,” Blunt said.

Davids, how­ever, said the topic should be up for dis­cus­sion.

“I do think the lead­er­ship right off the bat—I think you’re right—it was more of a cold re­cep­tion. But my un­der­stand­ing is it’s an on­go­ing dis­cus­sion,” she said. “The door is def­i­nitely not closed on that.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mis­souri, a mem­ber of House com­mit­tee tasked with mod­ern­iz­ing Congress, said cur­rent rules re­quire law­mak­ers to vote in per­son but a va­ri­ety of op­tions—from vot­ing in small groups or even vot­ing re­motely—are on the ta­ble.

“Every­body agreed that it’s a prob­lem,” Cleaver said. “There’s a lot of hes­i­ta­tion on the part of mem­bers to get on air­planes, fly back to Wash­ing­ton and sit in a room with 435 peo­ple.”

About one-third of House mem­bers and al­most half of se­na­tors are over the age of 60, which puts them at high risk if they con­tract coro­n­avirus.

Davids said as she works from home she’s been meet­ing via tele­con­fer­ence with pub­lic health of­fi­cials and providers in John­son and Wyan­dotte Coun­ties deal­ing with the spread of the dis­ease and co­or­di­nat­ing with other pol­i­cy­mak­ers from the re­gion.

AP file

Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., has largely switched her con­gres­sional of­fice from phys­i­cal to dig­i­tal.

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