House, Senate office buildings to stay closed

Investigators looking for evidence of anthrax

War On Terrorism

Anthrax Scare

October 23, 2001|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- House and Senate office buildings will remain closed today, and perhaps longer, as investigators search for further signs of anthrax, officials said yesterday.

Eager to demonstrate that Congress is on the job, both houses will meet today in the Capitol, which remains off-limits to tourists who don't have passes from their senator or representative to the House and Senate chambers.

Results of environmental tests of 19 congressional office buildings are incomplete, but no new evidence of anthrax has been found, said Lt. Dan Nichols of the Capitol Police.

Legislative leaders decided "the prudent course" would be to keep the buildings shut for now, the police spokesman added.

Alternate office space is being provided for each House member and a skeleton staff of three in a building about a mile away that houses the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Senators will be assigned temporary quarters in the old Post Office building across from Union Station.

It is unclear how long the Capitol Hill buildings might remain closed, Nichols said. But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he hoped they would all be open within a few days.

The results of more than 5,000 nasal swabs taken from workers and visitors to the complex have been analyzed, and the number of people showing signs of anthrax exposure remains at 28, Nichols said. All were in or near Daschle's office Oct. 15 and are being treated with antibiotics. None has shown any sign of infection.

Evidence of anthrax has been found in two House and Senate office buildings where mail is sorted, as well as a central mail processing facility on the edge of Capitol Hill that serves the congressional complex.

Nichols said investigators have not been able to determine whether anthrax traces on a mail bundling machine in the Ford House Office Building were the result of contamination from the Daschle letter or whether a second letter might be involved.

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