The Lead

After a year of Zoom and telework, Capitol staff make steady return to Harrisburg

By: - June 6, 2021 7:17 am

The Capitol building in Harrisburg (Capital-Star photo)

Pennsylvania is on pace to normalcy. And for some Capitol staff, that means heading back to the office.

Statewide COVID-19 mitigation measures have been lifted, so offices can operate at full capacity — meaning that when lawmakers return to Harrisburg next week, more staff will come with them for the first time since remote work became the norm in March 2020.

Beginning Monday, all offices under Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, will return to the office, spokesperson Brittany Crampsie told the Capital-Star. Though individual members can establish their remote work policies, most Capitol offices will be staffed by Monday, she added.

Crampsie said employees are expected to follow masking policies. Most offices are asking visitors to schedule appointments, Crampsie said, adding that phone numbers and policies are posted on office doors.

The state mask mandate will expire June 28, or when 70 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, whichever comes first.

Jason Thompson, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Corman’s offices are back at 100 percent capacity and following health and safety guidelines.

“If an individual is unvaccinated, they are still to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” he said, citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policies. “That’s not an issue for individuals who have both shots of the vaccine.”

All exceptions for House Republican employees related to COVID-19 expire mid-June, but GOP staff have been working in person since April 2020, spokesperson Jason Gottesman said. Any deviations are made on a member-by-member basis in consultation with human resources, he added.

“Those with COVID-19 symptoms must report to human resources, who will engage in contact tracing if necessary,” Gottesman added. “We encourage all others to follow CDC guidance.”

House Democrats have been alternating in-person work since May 24, spokesperson Bill Patton told the Capital-Star. Beginning Monday, about half of the caucus staff will be in the Capitol for the following two weeks.

“We intend to continue that for a little while until everyone’s comfortable where things stand,” Patton told the Capital-Star. “And the ones who are not physically in the Capitol will still be teleworking.”

Most House Democratic lawmakers will be in the building, Patton said. Regardless of their vaccination status, lawmakers and staff in the House Democratic caucus will be asked to wear masks while inside the Capitol and especially when around others in smaller spaces, he said.

Each morning, members and staff of the House Democratic caucus receive an email that asks if they’re working in-person or remotely. If they’re at the office, respondents are asked to answer a series of questions about their health and any potential COVID-19 symptoms.

“It’s a daily reminder to staff that if they are having any questions about their own health, then they should probably stay home,” Patton said.

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