Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Brad Schneider announced they have tested positive for COVID-19, the second and third Democrats to do so after legislators were locked down together in close quarters during the siege of the Capitol.
“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” the congresswoman from Washington said in a statement released late Monday night. “Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic — creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack.”
“I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and staff,” said Schneider, who said he drove back to Illinois and has yet to experience any symptoms. He said he received his positive result on Tuesday morning.
While Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop the formal counting of electoral votes affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, legislators of both parties were in a secure location for hours, with many Republicans refusing to wear masks. Congress confirmed Biden’s victory a few hours later.
On Monday afternoon, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., announced she had tested positive for the virus and blamed her GOP colleagues for not wearing masks.
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died due to injuries sustained during the assault.
Last week, Jayapal had expressed concerns about being exposed to the virus, telling New York magazine, “I’m quarantining now because I am convinced that where we ended up, in the secured room — where there were over 100 people and many were Republicans not wearing masks — was a superspreader event.”
In her statement following the positive test, Jayapal said she wanted members fined for not wearing masks in the Capitol and removed from the floor for not covering their mouth and nose.
“Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy,” she concluded.
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., was filmed during the lockdown attempting to hand masks to a number of Republican colleagues, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Michael Cloud of Texas and Doug LaMalfa of California. They all refused.
“By the end of passing them out, I only had one left in my hand offering them to everyone,” Rochester told CNN. “I was disappointed in those who didn’t accept the masks but was encouraged by those who did. At least we were a little bit safer.”
In a statement to HuffPost, Greene’s office said, “Congresswoman Greene is a healthy adult who tested negative for COVID at the White House on 1/4. She does not believe healthy Americans should be forced to muzzle themselves with a mask. America needs to reopen and get back to normal.”
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that the storming was a potential superspreader event.
“I do think you have to anticipate that this is another surge event. You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol,” Redfield said in an interview with McClatchy.
On Sunday, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., announced he had tested positive for the virus and had been quarantining since Wednesday night. A spokesperson for his office told the Washington Post that he was not in the lockdown area.
More than 376,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States. Last week, the nation crossed 4,000 in the single-day death total for the first time.
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