A growing number of lawmakers are testing positive for COVID-19 after being forced to crowd together in a secure space during Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol, confirming fears that the insurrection created conditions for a virus superspreader event.
At least three House members have tested positive in the past 24 hours: Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanDemocrat says she’s tested positive after Capitol lockdown with Republicans who ‘cruelly refused’ to wear masks The Hill’s Morning Report – House to impeach Trump on Wednesday Overnight Health Care: New Jersey Democrat thinks she contracted coronavirus during Capitol siege | Biden publicly receives second dose of coronavirus vaccine | Senate Democrats demand Trump address vaccine distribution MORE (N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalDemocrats vow to deliver K checks with control of Senate House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Hillary Clinton trolls McConnell: ‘Senate Minority Leader’ MORE (Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott Schneider7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics Election scrambles prospects for next COVID-19 relief bill Democrats call for IRS to review tax-exempt status of NRA MORE (Ill.). All were in the secure space where security officials ushered hundreds of lawmakers to shelter in place as rioters in support of President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse GOP leader tells members to quit spreading lies on riot, antifa DC attorney general says Trump Organization improperly paid K bill incurred during inauguration 70K QAnon Twitter accounts suspended in the wake of Capitol riot MORE rampaged the Capitol.
Lawmakers are revealing their diagnoses voluntarily; it’s not yet clear who else in the room had COVID-19 or has since tested positive after being exposed.
Democrats are furious that several House Republicans in the room were not wearing masks, in violation of rules in place since July requiring masks on the House floor and in surrounding office buildings.
A video obtained by Punchbowl News showed six House Republicans not wearing masks in the crowded room and declining blue surgical masks offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).
One of the maskless Republicans, Rep. Markwayne MullinMarkwayne MullinNew Jersey Democrat thinks she contracted coronavirus during Capitol siege READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Next Congress expected to have record diversity MORE (Okla.), can be heard saying, “I’m not trying to get political here.”
Reps. Marjorie Greene (R-Ga.) and Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) can also be seen smirking and averting their eyes as Blunt Rochester tried to convince them to put masks on. GOP Reps. Doug LaMalfaDouglas (Doug) LaMalfaREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Interior ends endangered species protections for gray wolves Democrats hit Interior secretary for reportedly refusing to wear mask in meeting with tribes MORE (Calif.), Michael Cloud (Texas) and Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryNew Jersey Democrat thinks she contracted coronavirus during Capitol siege Giuliani calls wrong senator in last-ditch effort to delay certification of Biden’s win READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (Pa.) were also not wearing masks.
Democrats will now start enforcing the existing mask rules starting Tuesday night by adopting additional rules to impose fines on members who don’t wear masks on the House floor.
Lawmakers will be fined $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for the second, to be deducted from their pay, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Earlier Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellHouse GOP rejects unanimous consent on ,000 direct payments Republicans scramble to prevent year-end legislative disaster AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? MORE (Mich.) and Anthony BrownAnthony Gregory BrownLobbying world Defense pick faces big hurdle House chairman endorses Michele Flournoy for Biden’s Pentagon chief MORE (Md.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would impose a $1,000 fine — per day — on any lawmaker who doesn’t wear a mask on the Capitol grounds.
“We’re done playing games. Either have some common sense and wear a damn mask or pay a fine. It’s not that complicated,” Dingell said in a statement.
Watson Coleman, Jayapal and Schneider each received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 that’s being distributed to members of Congress. Pfizer has said the vaccine is only about 52 percent effective after the first dose, and becomes 95 percent effective after the second dose is administered three weeks later.
Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, said Monday that she had mild, “cold-like symptoms” but was en route to a local hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment at the advice of her doctor.
The rules established by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMan seen carrying Pelosi’s lectern during Capitol riot released on K bail Trump and Pence speak for first time since Capitol riots FBI seeks assistance identifying Capitol rioter who carried Confederate flag MORE (D-Calif.) starting in late July prohibit any lawmaker from entering the House chamber or even being recognized to speak if they are not wearing a mask. But those rules have not always been strictly enforced.
“This is not a joke. Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy,” Jayapal said in a statement.
Schneider similarly endorsed sanctions against lawmakers without masks. He stressed that he doesn’t know for sure that he got COVID-19 while sheltering in place in the crowded secure location, but said it was the most risky situation he’s been in during the pandemic.
“Let me be clear, I don’t know from whom I got this virus or even necessarily got it in that room. But I know that my exposure in that room was greater than at any other time through this entire pandemic, of anything else I’ve ever been to,” Schneider told reporters. “The fact that three of us have so far tested positive I think reinforces that.”
Other lawmakers forced to stay in the crowded room on Wednesday expressed concern that they may have been exposed.
“It was gross. It was completely unsafe,” Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) said of his GOP colleagues without masks in the room where they were all evacuated from the House chamber. “And they kept escorting members of Congress to the room.”
“So eventually I became more concerned that I would get COVID-19 from my Republican colleagues than would die at the hands of the insurrectionists,” Jones said.
The Capitol physician, Brian Monahan, informed lawmakers on Sunday that people in the secure space during Wednesday’s mob attack “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
Five people, including a Capitol Police officer and a rioter attempting to break into the House chamber, died during Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol. The rioters, egged on by Trump at a rally earlier in the day, were trying to stop Congress from ratifying President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol Police confirm investigation into some officers’ behavior during riot GOP lawmakers told Trump takes some responsibility for Capitol riot Director of Army Staff disputes Capitol Police chief account of National Guard deployment MORE’s Electoral College victory.
More than 50 Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police officers were also injured, including several who had to be hospitalized.
Lawmakers ultimately certified the election results around 3:45 a.m. Thursday after the Capitol had been cleared of the mob.
The possibility of a superspreader event from Wednesday’s attack on the Capitol isn’t limited to members of Congress.
Most of the rioters were not wearing masks as they rampaged the Capitol — likely raising the risk of spreading COVID-19 among themselves and to the police officers with whom they came into close contact. People in the mob flew to Washington at Trump’s behest from all over the country and those who were not arrested at the Capitol may have exposed others during their travels.
Several other House members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week since the new session of Congress began on Jan. 3, including GOP Reps. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerOvernight Health Care: US sets record for daily COVID-19 deaths with over 3,800 | Hospitals say vaccinations should be moving faster | Brazilian health officials say Chinese COVID vaccine 78 percent effective Third House lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 this week GOP lawmakers object to Arizona Electoral College vote tally MORE (Texas), Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyOvernight Health Care: US sets record for daily COVID-19 deaths with over 3,800 | Hospitals say vaccinations should be moving faster | Brazilian health officials say Chinese COVID vaccine 78 percent effective The Hill’s Morning Report – A dark day as Trump embraces ‘special’ rioters Third House lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19 this week MORE (Texas), Gus Bilirakis (Fla.), Jake LaTurner (Kan.), Michelle Steel (Calif.) and Chuck FleischmannCharles (Chuck) Joseph FleischmannREAD: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results GOP lawmakers are showing up more frequently on Newsmax Democrats may bring DHS bill to House floor MORE (Tenn.).
All voted on the House floor in the days before learning they had tested positive.
Since March, at least 49 House members and seven senators have tested positive for COVID-19, while several others have tested positive for antibodies or had presumed cases. And in late December, Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) died from COVID-19 days before he was set to be sworn in on Jan. 3.
Updated: 5:37 p.m.