COVID fears grow in Capitol as three lawmakers test positive

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FILE - In this July 29, 2020 file photo, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., speaks during a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust on Capitol Hill in Washington. A second Democratic member of the House who was forced to go into lockdown during last weeks violent protest has tested positive for COVID-19. Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington says she has tested positive. She criticized Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON – Within a span of about 24 hours, three House Democrats announced they tested positive for COVID-19, prompting concern that last week’s insurrection at the Capitol has also turned into a super-spreader event threatening the health of lawmakers and their staffs.

Those who tested positive were among dozens of lawmakers who were whisked to a secure location when pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. Some members of Congress huddled for hours in the large room, while others were there for a shorter period.

It's not certain where and when lawmakers caught the illness, but the Capitol’s attending physician notified all House lawmakers of possible virus exposure and urged them to be tested. Dr. Brian Moynihan said members who were in protective isolation last Wednesday “may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

The three Democratic lawmakers directed their anger toward some House Republicans who were also in the secure room and declined opportunities to wear masks, despite their role in blocking the spread of COVID-19. Video surfaced of multiple Republican lawmakers refusing to wear a mask even when one was offered.

“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 their colleagues and our staff," Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said Tuesday.

Schneider's comments came a few hours after similar remarks from Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash..

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

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey said Monday that she had tested positive for COVID-19.