Democrats Test Positive for COVID After Hiding in Capitol with Maskless GOP

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who has COVID-19, slammed her GOP colleagues for refusing to wear masks during last week's riot, "creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack.”
January 12, 2021, 4:05pm
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill in a Wednesday, July 29, 2020,file photo, in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP, File)

Three House Democrats have tested positive for COVID-19 this week after the attack on the Capitol Jan. 6, and they’re blaming Republican colleagues who were videotaped refusing to wear masks while they were barricaded together.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, announced Tuesday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. Jayapal said that she got tested after Congressional attending physician Dr. Brian Monahan advised members who were barricaded in the secured room to get tested due to the lack of masks. Jayapal also called for “serious fines” and immediate removal from the floor for members who refuse to wear masks in Congress. 

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“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” Jayapal said in a statement. “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.”

Jayapal’s positive test follows Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, who announced Monday that she too had tested positive. Coleman is a 75-year-old cancer survivor and thus high-risk for severe complications from COVID-19.

“I received a positive test result for COVID-19, and am home resting at this time,” she said in a statement. “While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents.”

And on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois said he was the third person who was inside of the secure room to test positive, and again pointed fingers at the House Republicans who refused to wear masks.

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, 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 our colleagues and staff,” Schneider said in a statement.

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“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,” he added.

A video published by the newsletter Punchbowl showed several Republicans, maskless, and huddled closely in a secured room during the attack on the Capitol. When Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester walked over to the group and offered them masks, the Republicans mocked her for her attempt at safety in a body of which well over 100 members are over the age of 65.  

“I’m not going to try to get political here,” Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma told Rochester. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a freshman Republican from Georgia who was one of the members in the video and who also notably supports the QAnon conspiracy theory, said in a statement to CNN that she “does not believe healthy Americans should be forced to muzzle themselves with a mask. America needs to reopen and get back to normal."

At least one member of Congress had recently tested positive prior to Wednesday’s attack at the Capitol. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, traveled to D.C. earlier this month and voted for Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the House floor after announcing she had tested positive on December 28. 

While the House allowed voting by proxy due to the pandemic in the last Congress and is doing so again, the House needed to elect a Speaker and pass a rules package. Pelosi was re-elected Speaker by a margin of just two votes more than she needed. Moore’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield predicted last week that the Capitol riot would be a “surge event.”

“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,” Redfield told McClatchy in an interview. “This is an event that is going to have public health consequences.”

Correction 1/12 1:53 pm ET: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Rep. Steve Scalise as one of the people in the room described in the story. But he was at "an undisclosed location," according to his communications director. The text has been updated.