Secretary Present at DHS, Remote in Senate After Covid Exposure

  • Committee appearance is switched to a remote format
  • Mayorkas showed up in person at agency’s headquarters

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared remotely before a Senate committee Tuesday due to a recent Covid-19 exposure, but dialed in from agency headquarters.

The secretary was set to testify in person before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but had to switch to a remote appearance as a precaution after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus, a Senate aide said.

Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies at the Capitol on May 13, 2021.

Rather than quarantining at home, the secretary went to work at DHS headquarters. The hearing was interrupted when a fire alarm went off there.

“Senator, as you’ll be able to hear, there’s a fire alarm in the Department of Homeland Security’s building in which I am currently resident,” Mayorkas said during an exchange with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).

DHS guidance dated March 18 directs employees exposed to Covid-19 to isolate unless they are fully vaccinated and received their latest dose within the previous three months. More recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend a quarantine for vaccinated individuals who’ve been exposed and are asymptomatic. Mayorkas has previously said he is vaccinated.

DHS announced Tuesday that the secretary’s planned “State of Homeland Security” address scheduled for July 29 would be postponed. Officials didn’t provide further detail or answer whether the change was due to the secretary’s exposure to Covid-19.

They also didn’t respond to questions about whether the secretary has tested positive or negative for Covid-19 and why he appeared remotely for the Senate hearing but in-person on DHS’s campus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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