Three Democrats Now Have COVID-19 After Republicans Refused To Wear Masks During The Capitol Attack
At least six Republican members of Congress could be seen in video footage refusing to take a face mask while sheltering with their colleagues during the insurrection.
Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal, and Brad Schneider have announced they tested positive for COVID-19, adding that they believed they were exposed to the virus while in protective isolation during the attack on the Capitol, where several of their Republican colleagues refused to wear masks.
"I received a positive test for COVID-19, and am home resting at this time," Coleman said in a statement after testing positive Monday. "While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents."
Jayapal also tested positive Monday and called out her Republican colleagues for refusing to wear masks while forced to isolate during the attack.
"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," Jayapal said.
On Tuesday, Schneider tweeted that he had also tested positive, adding that he feels "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 our staff."
The three Democratic lawmakers, who are now in isolation, were rushed off the floor of the House of Representatives Wednesday as Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, violently forcing their way past police.
While isolated in a room, video footage shows that at least six Republican members of Congress refused to accept face masks.
"I'm not trying to get political here," Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin can be seen telling Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was handing out the masks. "I appreciate you."
The video was published by Punchbowl News.
In a statement, Watson Coleman's office said she believed she was exposed while in protective isolation.
Watson Coleman is a cancer survivor who underwent chemotherapy in 2018.
On Sunday, the Capitol's attending physician notified members of Congress that they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 while they were being sheltered during the attack, the Associated Press reported.
"Individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection," Dr. Brian Monahan told the lawmakers.
In a call with reporters Tuesday, Scheider said he was not sure if he was infected while isolated with his colleagues, but added that the crowded conditions in the small room where he and others were locked in for hours was the greatest risk of exposure he's had during the pandemic.
"I don't know from whom I got the virus, or if I got it from someone in that room, but I know my exposure in that room was greater than anything else I've been in during this pandemic," he said.
Schneider said he drove back home to Illinois Friday and, because of the possible exposure, had a rapid test done on Saturday and tested negative. However, a second test he took on Monday turned up positive.
A representative for Jayapal said she had her last negative test on Jan. 5, the day before the uprising.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Coleman noted that she had spent months carefully isolating, trying to stay healthy because of the pandemic. She was worried that her previous cancer, that had been found in her right lung, could put her at high risk.
Even at the Capitol she tried to stay away from people, but the need to flee from the mob of violent protesters threw her careful plans out the window.
"While we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks," she wrote. "Refusing to wear a mask is not, in fact, an act of self-expression. It's an act of public endangerment."
Among the members of Congress who were seen wearing no masks and refusing one when offered were Mullin and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Greene is a new member of Congress who has openly supported and spread lies of the mass delusion QAnon and reportedly refused to wear a mask earlier this month on the floor of the House. She later did don a mask that read "Trump won," propelling the lie that President Donald Trump won the election.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Rep. Michael Cloud of Texas, and Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California were also seen in the video without masks.
President-elect Joe Biden, speaking after he received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, called the refusal of Republican lawmakers to wear the masks as they sheltered in place "irresponsible."
"I was appalled," Biden said. "It's not a political issue. It's an issue of public safety."
Jayapal said she was also calling for "serious fines" against members of Congress who refuse to wear masks in the Capitol, and for them to be removed if they refuse to wear them on the floor of Congress.
Schneider said they should be "immediately removed from the House floor by the Sergeant at Arms for their reckless endangerment of their colleagues."
"Wearing a mask is not a political statement, it is public health guidance, common courtesy, and simply what should be expected of all decent people," Schneider said. "We can no longer tolerate Members coming to the floor or gathering in the halls of Congress without doing the bare minimum to protect those around them."
Watson Coleman also reported that she had already received the first of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, like many of her colleagues.
Schneider too had received the first of the two doses on Jan. 4.
The CDC has said, however, that infection of the novel coronavirus is still possible after a vaccine, noting that it takes a while for the doses to get the body to build immunity.
"It typically takes a few weeks for the body to build immunity (protection against the virus that causes COVID-19) after vaccination," according to the CDC. "That means it's possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection."
Mullin, Greene, Biggs, Perry, Cloud, and LaMalfa did not immediately respond to requests for comment.