Lawmakers who hunkered down together for safety while a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday may have been exposed to someone in the same room who was infected with the coronavirus, according to the Office of the Attending Physician.
“On Wednesday January 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in room located in a large committee hearing space,” Brian Monahan, the attending physician to Congress, wrote in an email that was sent to members of Congress on Sunday morning.
“The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
“Monahan did not specify how large the group of lawmakers in the room was.
Two House aides confirmed to The Washington Post that Monahan was referring to a room where scores of House members were taken amid the riot. Video first published by Punchbowl News on Friday showed maskless Republicans – including Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Michael Cloud of Texas, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania – refusing masks offered by Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware while in the room.
Monahan’s email advised lawmakers who may have been exposed to continue monitoring for symptoms, wearing masks and social distancing. “Additionally, individuals should obtain an RT-PCR coronavirus test next week as a precaution,” the email stated.
Members of Congress qualified for priority access to the coronavirus vaccine, and many – but not all – have received at least the first shot of a two-dose regimen. Some congressional staffers have received the coronavirus vaccine as well.
More than two million coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States so far this year, and for the first time, the seven-day average for new deaths has surpassed 3,000 deaths a day, according to a Washington Post analysis. The daily death toll for the first time surpassed 4,000 just one day after Wednesday’s insurrection. Experts have warned the storming of the Capitol building could have contributed to the public health crisis as a potential superspreader event.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told McClatchy on Friday that “you have to anticipate that this is another surge event.”
“Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now,” Redfield added. “So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading event.”