Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, has tested positive for the coronavirus after taking shelter in a room with other lawmakers, some of whom refused to wear masks, during last week’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
“I received a positive test result for COVID-19, and am home resting at this time,” she said in a statement. “While I am experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, I remain in good spirits and will continue to work on behalf of my constituents.”
Watson Coleman, D-N.J., said she believes she contracted the virus while in protected isolation during the riot. Many lawmakers were sheltered in a large committee room together as the mob stormed the Capitol.
On Sunday, Brian Monahan, the attending physician to Congress and the Supreme Court, told lawmakers that the people in that room may have been exposed to someone with the virus.
“The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others,” Monahan said. “During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
He encouraged members who had been in the room to get tested.
Watson Coleman, who is beginning her fourth House term, said she was among the many lawmakers who have received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
In 2018, she said she was cancer-free after a spot was detected on her lungs and she had a small tumor removed.
Public health experts expect last week’s insurrection to create a swell of new coronavirus cases. The rioters at the Capitol weren’t wearing masks or social distancing, and lawmakers, aides, members of the media and other support staff found themselves huddled together in barricaded rooms.
A video published by Punchbowl News showed a group of Republicans in close conversation in a lockdown room refusing to accept masks from Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del.
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters after receiving his second dose of the coronavirus vaccine that he was “appalled” by the video.
“I was appalled when I saw, in fact, it was my distinguished congresswoman from the state of Delaware. . . when they were hiding from the mob, she was going around trying to hand out masks to everybody. And her Republican colleagues wouldn’t wear a mask. I think it’s irresponsible,” Biden said.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said the night of the riot that she had left the secure location out of fear of catching the coronavirus from her maskless GOP colleagues.
“We were removed to a secure location with other members, but it was really crowded, and there are still Republican members who refuse to wear their face masks,” she said, during an interview Wednesday on MSNBC. “And so I decided I did not feel safe staying in those crowded conditions, and I have gone to a less safe alternate location, but one where I feel like, you know, I’m in a safer environment.”
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The Washington Post’s Alice Crites and Mike DeBonis contributed to this story.