A second Democratic U.S. lawmaker said she had tested positive for COVID-19 days after being locked down for hours with other colleagues, including Republicans who did not wear a face mask, to avoid the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol.
The exposure adds another worrisome consequence following Wednesday’s attack on Congress when lawmakers and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence were threatened by pro-Trump rioters storming the legislative building. Health experts warn it was also a superspreader event for the novel coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see more cases of members of Congress and their staff testing positive in the days ahead,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, told MSNBC in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s one of the consequences of that horrible day last week.”
U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson Coleman announced their positive test results on Monday and blamed Republicans for refusing to wear masks while isolated for hours in close quarters. Both said they are quarantining.
“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” Jayapal, 55, said in a statement late on Monday, adding on Twitter that they “not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”
U.S. lawmakers who refuse to wear masks in the Capitol should be fined and immediately removed from the chamber’s floor, she added.
Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, said she was awaiting results from a more comprehensive test after her rapid COVID-19 test came back positive.
The attending physician for Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, warned after the attack that the roughly 200 people, including some lawmakers and staff, who hid together for hours in a closed room may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
At least six Republican representatives refused to wear masks, CNN reported, citing video and photos posted online.
Health officials have warned the attack may become a major spreading event, not only among lawmakers but also nationwide as members of the mostly maskless crowd traveled home from Washington.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and outside scientists have said properly worn face masks can help reduce the spread of the highly contagious infectious disease along with other precautions, but their use has become a political flashpoint.