Three Democratic members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19, and they all have pointed to a day spent locked down with colleagues who refused to wear masks as a likely point of contraction.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) put out a scathing statement Tuesday after her positive diagnosis, stating that “anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”
She also called for “serious fines … on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol,” and said the sergeant-at-arms should immediately remove any member from the floor who won’t comply.
Reps. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) have also tested positive.
“I was forced to spend several hours in a secure but confined location with dozens of other Members of Congress. Several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask,” Schneider said Tuesday.
“Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test. I have tested positive,” Watson Coleman tweeted Monday.
When a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters overtook the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, officials rushed a number of lawmakers, reporters and staffers into a protected, undisclosed location.
More than 100 people were in the room together for as long as several hours, a source who was there told HuffPost.
At least nine Republican House members were not wearing masks for extended periods of time, according to the source, as well as video of the lawmakers. They included:
Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
Mo Brooks (Ala.)
Michael Cloud (Texas)
Matt Gaetz (Fla.)
Paul Gosar (Ariz.)
Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.)
Doug LaMalfa (Calif.)
Markwayne Mullin (Okla.)
Scott Perry (Pa.)
Punchbowl News published video Friday showing Biggs, Cloud, Greene, LaMalfa, Mullin and Perry in the room, refusing to wear masks offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).
“I’m not trying to get political here,” Mullin said.
“Congresswoman Greene is a healthy adult who tested negative for COVID at the White House on 1/4,” a Greene spokesperson told HuffPost. “She does not believe healthy Americans should be forced to muzzle themselves with a mask. America needs to reopen and get back to normal.”
Greene is a backer of the QAnon conspiracy theory that asserts Trump is fighting a “deep state” cabal of child traffickers. She has made videos promoting racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views.
Mark Spannagel, LaMalfa’s chief of staff, did not comment on LaMalfa’s lack of a mask. Instead, he blamed Democrats for the leak of the video to Punchbowl News, and criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for allowing members who had tested positive for COVID-19 to vote in person for the speaker election.
“Given that Speaker Pelosi pressured Covid positive Democrats to come to Washington and put them in the House Chambers to ensure her election as Speaker, Democrats should take a long look at the hypocrisy of their caucus before attacking Republicans,” Spannagel said. “Sending out video of the one of the Capitol’s ‘undisclosed locations’ that could easily be identified by those knowledgeable of the rooms just endangers everyone if it were needed next time. All to satisfy the need for partisan grandstanding.”
The other lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment.
Blunt Rochester told CNN that she was “very concerned we were sitting in a super-spreader event, but instead of sitting back and lamenting, I tried to go into action to try and persuade people” to put masks on.
The House sergeant-at-arms also reminded members that they were in close quarters and it was important to wear masks, a suggestion that Democrats applauded.
Many of the maskless Republicans were congregated together, and Democrats tried to stay away from that corner of the room.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) tweeted that she simply left because she didn’t want to be stuck with the GOP members.
Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, sent a letter to lawmakers on Sunday, warning them that someone in the room that day may have been infected with the coronavirus.
“The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection,” the email read. “Please continue your usual daily coronavirus risk reduction measures (daily symptom inventory checklist, mask wear, and social distancing). Additionally, individuals should obtain an RT-PCR coronavirus test next week as a precaution.”
Two other GOP lawmakers, Rep. Jake LaTurner (Kan.) and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.), have also tested positive for COVID-19 since the Jan. 6 siege, but both told The Washington Post they were not in the secured room that day.
Just one day after the right-wing riot at the Capitol, the United States hit a grim milestone: the deadliest day of the pandemic thus far, with more than 4,000 deaths.
This piece has been updated with two additional lawmakers who have tested positive after Jan. 6.