PEOPLE MAGAZINE, SEAN NEUMANN, DIANE HERBST
Two more members of Congress announced Tuesday they have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total number of lawmakers to test positive since last Wednesday’s U.S. Capitol riots to three.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington, and Brad Schneider, of Illinois, announced they had contracted the virus in separate statements. Both of the Democratic lawmakers blamed their Republican colleagues for not wearing masks while under lockdown in the U.S. Capitol building last week during the riots.
Speaking with PEOPLE on Monday afternoon, Jayapal, 55, said she had “a little fever” while waiting for her test results to come back. “We all got stuck in that room with Republicans who refuse to wear masks,” the Congresswoman said.
In a press release confirming her positive result later Monday night, Jayapal said some GOP lawmakers had “cruelly” and “recklessly” refused to wear masks when offered to them during the lockdown.
“Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them,” Jayapal said. “Only hours after President [Donald] 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 d— mask in a crowded room during a pandemic.”
Schneider, 59, announced his positive result on Twitter and shared a video of some GOP lawmakers refusing masks offered by their colleagues. The Illinois representative wrote that “several Republican lawmakers in the room adamantly refused to wear a mask, as demonstrated in video from Punchbowl News, even when politely asked by their colleagues.”
The Punchbowl News video shows Reps. Andy Biggs, Michael Cloud, Markwayne Mullin and Scott Perry seemingly refusing offers to put on protective face masks that were being handed out.
President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Monday he was “appalled” by the video: “I think it’s irresponsible,” Biden, 78, said.
Health officials have recommended people wear face masks in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 22.6 million people across the country, according to a New York Times tracker. At least 376,476 people have died from the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger told PEOPLE it was “astounding” some lawmakers refused to wear masks during the lockdown.
“We are all huddled in this giant room, and people are frazzled and there’s pictures [of the riots] coming out and we still do not really actually know what’s going on,” Spanberger, a Democratic representative from Virginia, said. “Some colleagues who had been screaming about all the things that, you know, those violent rioters were screaming about, were just calmly unwilling to put on their masks.”
Spanberger, 41, said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a newly-elected Republican from Georgia, also refused to wear a mask — despite there being “multiple announcements by democratic caucus chair, Hakeem Jeffries and Republican conference chair Liz Cheney.”
Tuesday’s announcement that two more representatives tested positive follows news that 75-year-old Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, of New Jersey, had also contracted the virus. Watson Coleman, a cancer survivor, blamed “a number of members within the space ignored instructions to wear masks” during last week’s lockdown.
On Sunday, Congressional physician Brian Monahan warned lawmakers that some may have been exposed while under lockdown last week, as pro-Trump rioters sieged on the Capitol building.
Monahan advised lawmakers to monitor for symptoms, continue social distancing and wear a mask. “Additionally, individuals should obtain an RT-PCR coronavirus test next week as a precaution,” Monahan wrote in an email to Congressmembers.
More than 100 of the nation’s lawmakers have had to quarantine due to testing positive or coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to GovTrack.
Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, of Louisiana, became the first elected federal official to die from COVID-19 complications last month.