On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris will hold a meeting with new senators in the Old Senate Chamber. As part of the traditional swearing-in ceremony, Harris has implemented a COVID-19 testing requirement for senators, their families, and any guests over the age of 2.
This requirement aligns with protocol set by the White House for those interacting with President Joe Biden. Some senators may choose not to participate in the ceremony due to this requirement, although none have publicly stated their intention to do so.
In the morning, Harris will lead a group swearing-in ceremony for new senators in the Senate Chamber. This ceremony is not necessary for senators who are already part way through their terms, as the Senate is a continuing body.
An email from the Vice President’s Legislative Affairs office also mentioned the COVID testing requirement, stating that “anyone over two years of age who will interact with the Vice President” must present a negative result from a medically-administered antigen test within 24 hours of the interaction.
Kamala Harris has decided to implement the CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test for the 118th Congress swearing-in ceremony. This has stirred debate between both parties as this policy applies regardless of vaccination status.
This protocol follows President Biden’s declaration that the pandemic is “over,” although the White House later attempted to clarify this statement. Currently, the administration has stated a surge in COVID cases and has urged people to get their booster vaccine shots.
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In 2021, during the peak of the pandemic, Vice President Mike Pence carried out the swearing-in duties and implemented social distancing measures, including marking the floor with a white “X” to indicate where new senators should stand. Mask-wearing was also left as a personal choice.
Overall, Vice President Harris is taking precautions to “protect” all those participating in the swearing-in ceremony by requiring a negative COVID test. This follows protocols set by the White House for interactions with President Biden and aims to prevent the spread of the virus. Some Senators have expressed frustration with these guidelines.