Tennessee legislature treats bedbug outbreak in workplace constructing

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The staff at Tennessee’s Legislative Office are not just trying to avoid the coronavirus.

Now there are bed bugs.

The pests were discovered Wednesday in several offices on the fifth floor of Cordell Hull’s office building, where the members of the House’s General Assembly and their staff work.

Connie Ridley, director of the Legislative Administration, said all staff in the house have now been advised to work from home until after Thanksgiving while the offices are being debugged.

Cordell Hull Building 436 6th Avenue North Nashville, TN 37243 Thursday July 11, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn.

“It appears they were unknowingly brought onto clothing or similar item from outside the Cordell Hull building,” Ridley replied Thursday when asked about how lawmakers believe the infestation has started.

Due to the pandemic, traffic inside and outside the Cordell Hull building is already restricted to only those who work in the building or who have made an appointment. Many members of the executive branch continue to work from home, although the majority of lawmakers continue to report to the office.

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While no bugs were found on other floors, a contractor has recommended that the entire building be treated “out of caution” against insects, Ridley wrote in an email to lawmakers late Thursday afternoon.

Staff and members working in their fifth-floor offices on Wednesday were informed that an exterminator would spray the area in the coming days, but were initially not told that there was a bedbug infestation.

An email to members on Wednesday referred to an “insect problem” and instructed lawmakers to postpone or move the Thursday and Friday sessions.

Now annihilators will take more time to treat the building.

“All House employees have been advised to stay out of the office until after Thanksgiving so that contractors have time and access to properly address the affected areas,” Ridley said in a statement Thursday. “The contractors will continue to evaluate the system during this period and make further recommendations if necessary.”

In an email to Senate staff on Thursday, they were advised to leave Lt. Gov. Notify Randy McNally if they see “unwanted guests” in the offices.

This appears to be the first documented case of bedbugs in Tennessee General Assembly buildings, according to Legislative Librarian Eddie Weeks, who noted that “in earlier times such things may not have been named”.

However, in a House of Representatives resolution in 1893, the Capitol superintendent was instructed to “take all of the carpet in this room and disinfect it and keep it for safekeeping until the next legislature session.”

Reach Natalie Allison at nallison@tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.

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