Domain Registration

Washington Grapples With High Number of Coronavirus Cases

  • January 12, 2021
Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey at a hearing on Capitol Hill in 2019.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

Two Democratic lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, saying they believe their infections are linked to the time they spent in a secure location with colleagues who refused to wear masks during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey announced her positive test result on Monday, followed early Tuesday by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington.

“It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”

Ms. Jayapal said on Twitter that she had tested positive “after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

On Sunday, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, who was also in protective isolation at the Capitol, announced that he had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to his roommate, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, also a Republican.

Mr. Fleischmann told the local news station WRCB that he was notified Wednesday that Mr. Bilirakis had tested positive, but did not receive the notification because he was locked down in a secure location amid the riot. He said he did not know with how many other lawmakers he had come in contact.

Mr. Fleischmann and another Republican lawmaker who tested positive, Representative Jake LaTurner of Kansas, both were at the Capitol on Wednesday to object to the certification of the electoral vote.

It was not immediately clear whether Ms. Watson Coleman and Ms. Jayapal were sequestered with the Republicans who are now known to have been infected.

Ms. Jayapal, who said she had begun quarantining immediately after the siege on the Capitol last week, said she was isolating but would “continue to work to the best of my ability.” She said any member of Congress who refused to wear a mask should be removed from the floor by the sergeant-at-arms and fined.

“This is not a joke,” she said in a statement. “Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

Since 2017, Ms. Jayapal has represented Washington’s Seventh Congressional District, which includes most of Seattle.

Ms. Watson Coleman said she and her husband, William Coleman, took a rapid antigen test on Monday. Her husband tested negative for the virus, she said. Ms. Watson Coleman is now isolating and awaiting the results of a more accurate laboratory P.C.R. test. She began to feel symptomatic within the past 24 hours, and is experiencing “mild, cold-like symptoms,” including a cough and a raspy sore throat.

Ms. Watson Coleman, a lung cancer survivor who will turn 76 next month, has represented the 12th Congressional District, a district north of Trenton that cuts across four central New Jersey counties, since 2015. She had gotten one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Dec. 29.

“I want people to know that this is very serious and that our exposure is because of people who don’t care about anybody else and are ignoring science and acting out of an abundance of stupidity,” she said.

Illnesses identified before someone has completed their full Covid-19 vaccination schedule should not cause concern, experts said.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized as a two-dose vaccine, with the second shot administered about three weeks after the first. While some protection appears to kick in after the first injection, it takes the body at least a week or two to develop a measurable immune response to the virus after its first exposure to the vaccine. The second shot clinches the protective process.

If Ms. Watson Coleman was indeed exposed to the virus just a week after her first injection, she was likely about as vulnerable to it as she was before the shot.

On Sunday, Congress’s Office of the Attending Physician said that House lawmakers may have been exposed to someone who was infected with the coronavirus while they were sheltering in a secure location as a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol last week.

In an email sent to lawmakers, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician, said that while “the time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others,” during that period, “individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.” He told lawmakers to obtain a P.C.R. test as a precaution and continue taking preventive steps against the spread of the virus.

Related News