PinkOmelet/iStockBy MATTHEW VANN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Three House Democrats who believe they were infected with COVID-19 after being forced to shelter with Republicans who refused to wear masks during the siege on the U.S. Capitol are lashing out at their fellow representatives’ lack of consideration.
The infected lawmakers — Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Brad Schneider and Bonnie Coleman — are furious with their Republican colleagues for not wearing masks as hundreds of lawmakers crowded into a secure location after evacuating the House gallery when Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol last week.
“It’s more than arrogance, it’s more than contempt,” said Schneider, D-Ill. “It’s a desire to cause injury to others, is the only way I can describe it.”
While Schneider said he has not experienced any symptoms, both Coleman and Jayapal say they are experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms.
In a virtual press conference with reporters Tuesday, Schneider described arriving to a scene with hundreds of lawmakers packed together in a secure location. Schneider said it was a “risky environment” for COVID-19 exposure even though there were some members wearing masks.
Schneider also added that every Republican House member he saw was not wearing a mask.
The three representatives have received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, but not the second dose medical experts say is crucial to full protection from the coronavirus.
Members of Congress were among the first to begin receiving the vaccine, but many have only recently received their first dose and have not been given the second dose, which is required 21 days after the first.
“It’s really important to keep stressing that people need the two doses to be able to get the protective level of the 94% efficacy that we talk about,” said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “It protects against the impact of the infection, meaning development of disease or severe disease. We don’t know if it protects against infection.”
Coleman, Schneider and Jayapal have all entered quarantine.
While there’s still uncertainty about how Schneider and his Democratic colleagues contracted the coronavirus, they believe their sheltering in place for hours with maskless Republican lawmakers played a key role in their positive COVID-19 status.
“I don’t know from whom I got this virus or even necessarily if I got it in that room,” said Schneider. “But I know that my exposure in that room was greater than at any other time through this entire pandemic.”
Several House Republicans — including Reps. Markwayne Mullin, Andy Biggs, Scott Perry and Michael Cloud — were seen on video refusing to accept a mask when offered as they sheltered during the insurrection in their secure location on the Capitol grounds.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga., who was also featured standing maskless with other House Republicans, released a statement saying, “It is absolutely ridiculous and insane to blame those of us who did not have COVID or symptoms. The blame lies squarely on Nancy Pelosi and the positive COVID members bringing COVID in the Capitol! It’s absurd to say they caught it during the safe room.”
Green’s statement, however, does not consider the well-documented threat of asymptomatic spread, which poses the same level of risk as symptomatic spread in terms of becoming infected with the coronavirus, according to medical experts.
A spokesperson for Rep. Doug LaMalfa, who was spotted surrounded by his maskless GOP colleagues, said the congressman was “clearly eating and drinking at the time of this video and his mask was next to him on the table.”
Democrats are said to be moving forward with plans for a mandatory mask requirement on the House floor that will impose a fine for any breaches of the requirement. The fine would be $500 for the first offense and $2,500 for the second.
The move to impose a mask requirement comes amid concerns over the accuracy of the coronavirus tests issued to members of Congress, their staff and hundreds of Capitol Hill employees. The Food and Drug Administration warned last week that the rapid test offered by Curative posed a “risk of false results, particularly false negative results.”
Accurate coronavirus tests have an even greater level of importance for those who work at the Capitol, especially Capitol Hill police officers, who came in contact with scores of maskless, pro-Trump rioters.
The Trump administration’s testing czar, Adm. Brett Giroir, said last week that the Department of Health and Human Services is working with the attending Capitol physician’s office to find an alternate test for use on Capitol Hill.
“We are working with the office of the congressional physician very closely to provide high-throughput, very sensitive testing that would not be dependent on Curative,” Giroir said. “We are very confident that that will be in place to handle all the issues around inauguration.”
ABC News’ Ben Siegel contributed to this report.
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