Three lawmakers who had to shelter for safety during the US Capitol riot have tested positive for Covid-19.
Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, announced her positive result early on Tuesday, while chastising Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks while they waited in a secured room for more than five hours.
The New Jersey representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, also a Democrat, said she decided to get tested because of the possibility of exposure and tested positive. She also tweeted that she was receiving monoclonal antibody treatment – which is still being investigated – on the advice of her doctor. Coleman, 75, is a cancer survivor.
Later on Tuesday, Brad Schneider, another Democrat, from Illinois, announced he too had tested positive. “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,” he said in a statement on his website.
Dr Brian Monahan, the attending physician for Congress, had advised representatives and staff on Sunday that those in the secured room could have “been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection”.
Jayapal called for “serious fines” to be levied on the lawmakers who did not wear a mask, putting their colleagues at risk. Six Republicans, including the Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, were seen on a tape refusing to accept a mask, according to CNN.
Jayapal and Coleman had received the first round of the Pfizer vaccine and were days away from the second. They join more than 222,000 Americans who have tested positive already this week as the virus continues to rage, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 376,000 people have died in the US since the pandemic started last year.
As hospitals try to fit overflowing patients into gift shops and chapels, public health officials are trying to rev up vaccine distribution. The Trump administration announced on Tuesday it would expand eligibility criteria for the vaccine to everyone above 65, rather than limiting the vaccine to essential workers and other specific groups.
In California, where 30,000 people have now died, the Disneyland resort is set to become a “super” Covid-19 vaccine site for Orange county, home to 3 million residents. In Florida, some counties are using the Eventbrite website – normally used for concerts or recreation – to sign people up for shots.
Just days from the presidential inauguration, many are waiting to see if Joe Biden’s coronavirus taskforce can make up for lost time in the rocky vaccine rollout.
The president-elect announced his team would release and distribute as many vaccines as possible when in power, which some critics say could delay the second round needed for maximum efficacy.
Political infighting over the virus does not seem to be going away with the Trump administration. Greene released a statement about her refusal to protect her colleagues last Wednesday.
“Congresswoman Greene is a healthy adult who tested negative for Covid at the White House just this week,” it said.
“She does not believe healthy Americans should be forced to muzzle themselves with a mask. America needs to reopen and get back to normal.”