A 75-year-old US lawmaker has tested positive for Covid-19 after being locked down to avoid a mob attacking the US Capitol last week, saying she believes she was exposed while sheltering in place with maskless colleagues.
US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement Monday (local time) that a rapid test result came back positive and that she was awaiting the results of a more comprehensive test, noting that she had already received the first shot of the two-dose coronavirus vaccine.
Congress’ attending physician said lawmakers who hid together for hours in a closed room to avoid the Trump-inspired mob may have been exposed to the coronavirus by an infected person. Some 200 people, including scores of House members, sheltered for hours in a closed room where a number of Republicans refused to wear masks.
“She believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the US Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots,” Watson Coleman’s office said in a statement.
She’s not the only one to have since tested positive.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal later revealed she has also tested positive for Covid-19 following the lockdown.
“I just received a positive Covid-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” she said on Twitter.
“Only hours after Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, 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.”
She blasted the mask-refusing politicians for what she described as their “selfish idiocy”.
Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy. I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) January 12, 2021
Biden: Masks are ‘not a political issue’
A video posted online shows Delaware Democrat Lisa Blunt Rochester approaching the group of Republican colleagues and offering blue surgical masks.
Georgia Republican and QAnon follower Marjorie Taylor Greene, Oklahoma Republican Markwayne Mullin, Andy Biggs from Arizona, Pennsylvanian representative Scott Perry, Texas Republican Michael Cloud and Californian Doug LaMalfa were captured unmasked and gathered closely together. Each reportedly refused to wear a mask.
Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, who has made the COVID-19 pandemic a top priority, told reporters he was appalled that Republican lawmakers refused to wear masks while hunkered down even when others passed them out: “It’s not a political issue. It’s an issue of public safety.”
Health officials and experts have warned the attack will likely be a superspreader event, noting lawmakers were isolated for hours inside while a violent crowd of mostly maskless Trump supporters stormed inside in an unsuccessful bid to block lawmakers’ certification of Biden’s presidential win.
“You have to anticipate that this is another surge event,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr Robert Redfield said last week. “These individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now. So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading event.”
“We’re going to see chains of transmission come out of that kind of a gathering for sure,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told a CBS News program on Sunday.
While the Capitol riots have dominated news coverage in the past week, the coronavirus pandemic has been reaching devastating new heights in the US.
On Monday, the country notched 1,739 deaths, according to the Covid Tracking Project – down from a record of 4,000 daily new deaths last week.
There are currently more than 129,700 people hospitalised with Covid-19 in the US while the death toll has surged to more than 376,000.
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