UPDATE: Jan. 12, 2021, 1:26 p.m. EST: At least two other members of Congress, U.S. Representatives Brad Schneider and Pramila Jayapal, have tested positive for coronavirus after being forced to shelter indoors with maskless Republicans during Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol.
“Today, 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 tweeted on Tuesday.
This is a story about grotesque irresponsibility.
On Monday, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman announced she tested positive for COVID-19. The 75-year-old Democrat believes she was infected while forced to shelter with maskless Republicans in a Capitol safe room during the coup attempt by Trump-zealots, some of whom were armed. A video published by Punchbowl News shows a group of maskless Republicans refusing to wear masks during the episode. Some appear smug, even smiling.
Most coronavirus spreading events, however, occur indoors.
“Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test,” Coleman tweeted on Monday. “I have tested positive,” she said, adding that her symptoms are currently mild.
While there’s not yet absolute proof Coleman became infected in the saferoom, the evidence clearly supports her exposure there.
The coronavirus is certainly spreading around Congress. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that the attending physician to Congress told members they may have been exposed to an infected colleague. Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican from Tennessee, announced on Sunday that he tested positive after coming into contact with an infected member.
Masks vastly reduce the spread of the coronavirus. In Kansas, counties that implemented a mask mandate in July 2020 saw a six percent decrease in COVID-19 cases. In sharp contrast, counties with no mandate saw a 100 percent increase in cases, .
The coronavirus is devious. Many infected people feel fine because they either don’t have symptoms (asymptomatic) or don’t yet have symptoms (presymptomatic). The total number of infected people who never have symptoms is , says the CDC. That’s why maskless people, like the Republican representatives who refused masks while crowded in a Capitol safe room, endanger others.
Wearing masks has recently become even more crucial. A new strain of the coronavirus, responsible for skyrocketing cases in the UK, has been spreading in the U.S. The variant (dubbed the B.1.1.7 lineage), will likely become a dominant strain in regions around the U.S. It is than previous strains. Masks can temper the spread of this virus until a significant portion of the populace is vaccinated with the safe, FDA-approved vaccines.
“You really don’t want to play games with this [new variant],” Dr. Peter Gulick, a D.O. and professor of medicine at Michigan State University, told Mashable.
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