Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced that he has tested positive for Covid-19, the coronavirus disease, and that he is being quarantined. A day later, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that her husband, John Bessler, also tested positive. At least two other senators, Utah Republicans Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, are self-quarantining because they were recently in close proximity to Paul. And at least two members of the House, Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ben McAdams (D-UT), have tested positive for the disease.
For the moment, this small number of infections is manageable. But what happens if so many lawmakers are locked into a quarantine that they are unable to cast votes? What if a critical mass of lawmakers become so incapacitated that the House or the Senate lacks the quorum it needs to conduct business? What if members are so terrified of becoming sick that they refuse to convene in Washington (as a general rule, members of Congress must be in the House or Senate chamber to vote)? What if many members of the House become unable to work, leaving vacant seats that can only be filled by a special election?