During the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol, politicians and staffers were rushed into secured rooms as insurgents ransacked and vandalized the building. By the end of the day, there were five fatalities (via The Guardian). To add to the tragedy, at least one member of Congress has tested positive for COVID-19 after spending hours packed together with her colleagues, many of whom weren’t wearing masks.
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat from New Jersey, announced in a tweet, “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.”
The 75-year-old Congresswoman later tweeted, “I am home resting at this time. While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents.”
Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Capitol’s attending physician, sent out a memo on Sunday urging lawmakers and staffers to get a COVID-19 test. “On Wednesday January 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in a room located in a large committee hearing space. 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,” Monahan wrote in the memo (via Newsweek).
Politicians have described the insurrection as a superspreader event
In an interview with The Cut, Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, described the Capitol siege as a “superspreader event” and said that she is currently in quarantine. “[W]here we ended up, in the secured room … there were over 100 people and many were Republicans not wearing masks,” Jayapal told the outlet.
COVID-19 tests are most accurate when an individual is tested five to seven days after exposure to the virus (via Norton Healthcare), so more cases may emerge in the coming days and weeks. Politico reported that, as a precaution, Democratic Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey has canceled public appearances due to potential exposure.
President-elect Joe Biden had strong words for the Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks during lockdown and said he was “appalled” that they rejected masks even when extras were handed out. “It’s not a political issue. It’s an issue of public safety,” said Biden (via Reuters).
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