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Rep. Jayapal: Unmasked Republicans Made Capitol Breach a “Superspreader Event”

Several Republicans were offered masks, but refused them, while in close quarters during the breach by Trump supporters.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal listens during a committee hearing in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 11, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Two Democratic members of Congress are blaming Republicans after each tested positive for coronavirus, believing they contracted the virus as a result of being in close proximity with GOP colleagues who refused to wear masks during the storming of the Capitol building last week by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-New Jersey), a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor, announced on Monday she had received a positive test result from a coronavirus rapid test she took. Though she initially said in a statement that she was in “good spirits,” her condition apparently worsened, she later announced.

“While I feel OK, on my doctor’s advice I’m on my way to a local hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment,” Watson Coleman said in a social media post later in the day.

The treatment she received is typical for those “who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19,” including those over age 65 or have underlying medical conditions that warrant it, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

In a statement on her official website, Watson Coleman said that she believes she became ill as a result of the breach of the Capitol “during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building.” In other words, she contracted the virus, in her view, while in hiding with her colleagues.

Watson Coleman was pointed in her condemnation of Republican House members who had thwarted requests to wear masks during the Capitol lockdown.

“It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” the congresswoman said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) described to The New York Times the scene at the Capitol as Trump loyalists forced them to evacuate — and how Republicans added to the danger by refusing to mask up.

“While we were sheltering in place on Wednesday, I witnessed many Republicans refuse the masks they were offered, and we are now beginning to see the consequences,” Wild said. “I believe there must be repercussions for this total lack of leadership or regard for the health and safety of their colleagues.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) also announced on Monday that she had tested positive for coronavirus. She, too, believes she contracted COVID-19 as a direct result of colleagues behaving irresponsibly during the Capitol breach.

“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 on her official website. “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 called for “serious fines” to be “levied on every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol.”

“Additionally, any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be immediately removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms,” she added. “This is not a joke.”

Health experts have detailed how the events of last Wednesday were dangerous, beyond both the violence that was visible on television screens across the world and the long term implications of Trump loyalists attempting to overturn the outcome of an election during the breach of the Capitol.

“This was in so many ways an extraordinarily dangerous event yesterday, not only from the security aspects but from the public health aspects, and there will be a fair amount of disease that comes from it,” Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told The Washington Post.

The United States is experiencing a new wave of coronavirus cases and deaths that is higher than it’s been at any other point since the pandemic began. In the past 14 days, the daily death toll numbers have increased at a rate of about 48 percent, with the seven-day average of new deaths currently at 3,249 deaths per day.

More than 22.6 million cases of coronavirus have been diagnosed in the U.S. since the beginning of March, with more than 376,000 deaths being reported in the country since that time as well.

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