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Senate sets poor example of social distancing during coronavirus stimulus vote

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/26/2020 Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – As the Senate voted on an emergency economic relief package Wednesday night, Twitter users were quick to point out that the Senators were not following social distancing recommendations from health agencies.

More: Senate passes historic $2 trillion stimulus package to curb effects of coronavirus

During the vote on the coronavirus stimulus package, senators were given 30 minutes to vote instead of the traditional 15 so they could practice social distancing.

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However, as the votes were tallied, Senators could be seen standing close together, talking and chatting, before they adjourned until April 20, a date announced Wednesday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

More: From New York City to St. Augustine, fever charting shows social distancing may be 'breaking the chain' of coronavirus infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes social distancing as, "remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible."

Just Monday, one of their Senate colleagues, Rand Paul, R-KY., tested positive for COVID-19, sending shock waves through the Capitol as he had continued to attend events and use shared facilities as he awaited the test results. Two of his colleagues self-quarantined out of abundance of caution following his announcement.

As the virus started to spread, the idea of changing foundational congressional rules to allow voting from remote locations rather than all together has become a serious proposition in a body that prides itself on following time-honored customs. 

a person wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives a thumbs up as he arrives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: DCAH102 © Andrew Harnik, AP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. gives a thumbs up as he arrives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: DCAH102

More: Tradition-bound Congress considers voting remotely as coronavirus illnesses hit home

Currently, Senate rules require a senator to be physically present during a roll call vote. Senators may vote from their desks or in the well of the chamber, but they must be present so the clerk can record their vote.

The CDC has advised people older than 60 to avoid large crowds. The average age is 63 in the Senate.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate sets poor example of social distancing during coronavirus stimulus vote

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