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Capito concerned about community spread

WHEELING — U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito said there are signs of community spread in West Virginia, a development she sees as “troubling.”

As the Senate on Monday discussed a third round of coronavirus relief packages to assist the nation in combating the COVID-19 threat, Capito, R-West Virginia, said Capitol Hill itself exemplifies what is happening across the nation.

Her next door office neighbor in Washington is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who was the first member in the Senate to test positive for the coronavirus. She said she hasn’t spoken to him since his announcement Sunday afternoon, and hasn’t herself been tested for the virus.

“I am worried about the community spread,” she said. “That’s what we’re seeing in other states. (In West Virginia) it’s not somebody bringing it in from a large airport and spreading it within the community.

“We have so many vulnerable people in our state. This is my cause for concern. If this becomes a big community spread issue — like in nursing homes, assisted living and large communities, large families — that is very, very concerning. That’s where you see the isolation (part) of the challenge is going to become more critical that where it is today.”

Capito, who spoke on the issue of the coronavirus crisis during a teleconference with state media Monday, acknowledged that it is “worrisome” for members of Congress being together in Washington with the potential for the coronavirus being passed.

“We have to be here. We want to be here to meet the challenge,” Capito said. “But we also need to keep our social distancing, and make sure we are being smart like everybody else.”

She said it hits especially close to home “when the guy right next door to you has the virus.”

“I’m not worried about myself — we’re doing fine,” she said. “I’m just wanting to help people who are afflicted, and help the supplies and economic help we need sooner rather than later.”

She was asked whether Congress should move to allow members to vote from home during the crisis.

“I am less inclined to go along with that,” she said. “As time goes on, we may have to look at something like that. I think some of the best work we do — even under difficult circumstances — is when we are meeting here in person doing our job.”

The Senate was expected to continue to debate on the third round of coronavirus relief packages on Monday. A motion to proceed to the vote on the package was shot down on a 47-47 vote Sunday night, with Republicans largely in favor and Democrats in opposition.

Democrats have said there were concerned about oversight of a $500 billion provision in the bill to aid large corporations that would be directed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The standoff led to a heated debate Monday on the Senate floor between Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

According to information provided by Capito’s office, the bill also contained, among other provisions, $75 billion for hospitals and other medical providers, and a new loan program for small businesses, with loan forgiveness designed to help keep workers on the payroll.

In addition, the bill provided for payments to all lower and middle income families of $1,200 per individual, $2,400 per married couple and $500 per child for individuals earning up to $75,000. Those eligible would include single parents earning up to $112,500; and married couples earning up to $150,000.

Capito’s teleconference came prior to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement issuing a stay at home order for state residents. She said she would support such an order, as long as state residents had access to needed food and medical care.

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