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Congress to reconvene Tuesday despite continuing anthrax tests

Fences surrounding the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington force pedestrians to use checkpoints.  


(CNN) -- The Capitol Building will again be open for business Tuesday, but the House and Senate office buildings will remain closed while tests continue for anthrax.

Lawmakers will meet in their chambers, with the Senate opening its session at 9:30 a.m. EDT. The House will meet at 6 p.m. that day.

"This is an indication to the nation that the legal business of the United States continues," said Lt. Dan Nichols, spokesman for the Capitol Police.

Congressional leaders pronounced the building safe, though several sources told CNN that preliminary tests showed three positive "hits" suggesting possible anthrax in the Capitol.

All three hits came from the LBJ Room, near the Senate floor, the sources said.

Last week, FBI officials told staffers who were in Sen. Tom Daschle's office in the Senate Hart office building to take the clothes they had been wearing Monday -- when the anthrax-laced letter to the Senate Majority Leader was opened -- to the LBJ room.

"No new positives" among final test results for anthrax have been found in the Capitol, said Nichols. Some test results, he said, are not back.

Of 5,000 nasal swabs taken of personnel from the office buildings, the number of positives of those exposed to anthrax remains at 28, he said. "That certainly is encouraging news," Nichols said.

About 400 Capitol Hill workers are taking the full 60-day treatment of Ciprofloxacin, Capitol physician Dr. John Eisold said Monday.

 CORRECTION
A letter sent to an Argentine family from the United States, containing tourism pamphlets, has tested positive for the presence of anthrax, the minister of health said. A CNN report that the letter, sent from Miami, Florida, had a return address for Carnival Cruise Lines, was not correct. CNN regrets the error. The letter did contain a pamphlet that mentioned cruises offered by Carnival, but was not an official pamphlet for Carnival. So far, the one person in the family who handled the letter has tested negative for anthrax, Minister of Health Hector Lombardo said Friday.

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 The latest news

Latest developments

• President Bush issued an executive order Monday designed to speed the production and delivery of pharmaceuticals. The order gives the Health and Human Services Department the authority to assume the legal and financial risk for contractors who are taking steps to increase the supply of drugs and vaccines desired by the federal government to protect Americans from bioterrorism. (Full story)

• The company that makes anthrax vaccines for the U.S. military changed the manufacturing process in 1990 without ensuring the change would not affect the quality of the vaccine, according to the General Accounting Office, the watchdog arm of Congress. In testimony expected to be delivered Tuesday, the GAO speculates the change could have altered the vaccine and significantly increased the number of people who suffered adverse reactions.

• Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the Monday deaths of two postal workers were "likely due to anthrax," and that more than 2,000 other Washington-area postal workers were undergoing an "aggressive and proactive treatment regimen" to ward off the bacterial disease. (Full story)

• Two other postal workers were hospitalized with inhalation anthrax. Authorities also were checking nine individuals who have reported illnesses to see whether they have anthrax. It was not clear if all nine were postal workers.

Washington postal authorities closed indefinitely two mail facilities where the employees worked: one in Clinton, Maryland, and an airmail-handling center near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

• Angry postal workers said Monday local and federal authorities were slow to respond to the anthrax threat, even after a contaminated letter was opened in a Senate office last week. "It's like our lives are not as important," said Melvin Thweatt, an employee at the Brentwood facility in Clinton. He noted that Capitol offices were shut down last week for an environmental sweep of possible anthrax exposure. (Full story)

• Postmaster General Jack Potter promised to introduce technology that uses ultraviolet light to "sanitize the mail as it moves through our system." Still, he said, such changes "won't happen overnight, so we need people to continue to be on guard." (Full story)

• In Boca Raton, Florida, the Environmental Protection Agency was set to begin conducting its first-ever biohazard cleanup at the American Media Inc. building. One AMI employee died of the inhalation form of anthrax and another worker is hospitalized with the disease.

Project coordinator Fred Stroud described a three-part process: pre-testing, decontamination and confirmation testing. Stroud said anthrax spores can easily be killed by diluted solutions of bleach, and he said chlorine-dioxide gas may be used to decontaminate papers. About $500,000 from the federal Superfund program will underwrite the decontamination process of the tabloid publishing headquarters building.

• Preliminary testing found trace amounts of anthrax in CBS News anchor Dan Rather's anteroom and office areas, but Rather had shown no signs of exposure, CBS News announced Monday. (Full story)

• New York Gov. George Pataki's Manhattan office reopened Monday. It was closed last week when anthrax spores were found in part of it. The office was decontaminated, and officials said there are no signs of anthrax.



 
 
 
 



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