Members of Congress — two of them women — say they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 after being locked down last week with fellow legislators during a violent attack on the Capitol.
U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, both Democrats, announced their results Monday. Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois announced his diagnosis Tuesday.
Jayapal announced her COVID-19 diagnosis late Monday. In an interview with The Cut that was published Friday, Jayapal said she was already quarantining because she believed the space where she and other members of Congress were in lockdown together — she estimated more than 100 people were there — was a coronavirus superspreader event.
In a statement released Monday, Jayapal said she was isolating and blamed Republicans for not wearing masks inside the Capitol. She called for “serious fines” for members of Congress who refuse to wear a mask inside the building.
“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them. Only hours after President Trump incited a deadly assault on our Capitol, our country, and our democracy, 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 said.
On Tuesday, Reps. Debbie Dingell of Michigan and Anthony Brown of Maryland, both Democrats, announced they introduced a bill that would impose $1,000 fines on members of Congress who refuse to wear a mask on Capitol grounds during the pandemic.
Watson Coleman said in her announcement Monday that she had received a positive rapid test result for COVID-19 and was waiting for additional results. The 75-year-old, who previously underwent treatment for cancer, is also isolating.
“I received a positive test result for COVID-19, and am home resting at this time,” she said in her statement. “While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents.”
Some members were in lockdown for hours together in the Capitol while pro-Trump supporters stormed the building last Wednesday over the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win. Some Republican lawmakers refused to wear a mask, according to several Democrats and video.
On Sunday, the attending physician for Congress warned members and their staff that people in protective isolation in a large committee hearing space during the attack could have been exposed to coronavirus. The physician warned that people in the room should be tested for COVID-19 as a precaution.
It’s possible other members of Congress were infected. COVID-19 symptoms can emerge 14 days after exposure to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A health department may recommend stopping quarantine 10 days after exposure.
Democrats shared their palpable frustrations with lawmakers who did not wear masks amid the chaos of the day.
“The second I realized our “safe room” from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited,” tweeted Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. “Furious that more of my colleagues by the day are testing positive.”
Jayapal told The Cut that she had received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine Jan. 4, days before the attack. Watson Coleman said in her statement that she had received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID19 vaccine, which was made available to members of Congress. The vaccines don’t reach more than 90 percent effectiveness until after the recipient has received two doses, according to clinical data.
Schneider, in a series of tweets, said he’s in “strict isolation” and worried that he’s risked his wife’s health. He added that he is “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.”
While members of Congress had been in their home districts, they were set to return to Washington on Tuesday night to vote on a measure calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and remove President Trump from office.
The lawmakers’ diagnoses are not expected to impact those related votes.
A number of members of Congress have previously tested positive for COVID-19. Last month, Luke Letlow, a Republican who had just won an election to represent a Louisiana district, died of coronavirus days before he was set to be sworn in.