WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) — A third Democratic U.S. lawmaker announced a positive test for COVID-19 after being locked down for hours with other colleagues, including Republicans who did not wear face masks, to avoid the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol.
The exposure added another worrisome consequence following Wednesday's attack on Congress, when lawmakers, staff and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence were threatened by pro-Trump rioters storming the legislative building.
"Unfortunately, I think we're going to see more cases of members of Congress and their staff testing positive in the days ahead," Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, told MSNBC on Tuesday. "It's one of the consequences of that horrible day last week."
U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson Coleman announced their positive test results on Monday and blamed Republicans for refusing to wear masks while isolated for hours in close quarters. Both said they are quarantining.
On Tuesday, Representative Brad Schneider announced that he had also tested positive.
"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," Schneider said in a statement.
U.S. lawmakers who refuse to wear masks in the Capitol should be fined and immediately removed from the chamber's floor, Jaypal added.
Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, said she was awaiting results from a more comprehensive test after her rapid COVID-19 test came back positive.
The attending physician for Congress, Dr. Brian Monahan, warned on Sunday that the roughly 200 people, including some lawmakers and staff, who hid together for hours in a closed room may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
He did not provide further details.
A handful of Republicans in the room did not wear masks, according to a Reuters eyewitness.
Health officials have warned the attack could become a major spreading event, not only among lawmakers but also nationwide as members of the mostly maskless crowd who rampaged in and around the Capitol traveled home from Washington.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and outside scientists say properly worn face masks can help reduce the spread of the highly contagious infectious disease along with other precautions, but their use has become a political flashpoint.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Bhargav