Rep. Ayanna Pressley was already “furious” Tuesday afternoon that multiple colleagues in Congress had tested positive for COVID-19 after they sheltered in a room with several House Republicans who refused to wear face coverings during the mob attack on the Capitol Building last week.
“The second I realized our ‘safe room’ from the violent white supremacist mob included treasonous, white supremacist, anti masker Members of Congress who incited the mob in the first place, I exited,” Pressley tweeted.
Hours later, the Massachusetts congresswoman’s husband, Conan Harris, who was with her during the riot last Wednesday, found out that he had also tested positive for COVID-19.
In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Pressley’s office said that Harris received the positive COVID-19 test Tuesday evening, after accompanying his wife in Washington, D.C., for her swearing-in ceremony last week — and being forced into hiding in close quarters during the breach of the Capitol by riotous supporters of President Donald Trump.
Harris has experienced mild symptoms and remains in isolation, Pressley’s office said. Pressley herself tested negative, but is also isolating, along with staff identified as close contacts.
It’s still unclear how exactly Harris contracted the virus. But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, Pressley blasted the Republicans’ mask-flouting behavior.
“As my colleagues and I sought shelter from the white supremacist mob that violently attacked our seat of government, we were greeted by a different threat—one posed by my callous Republican colleagues who, in this crowded and confined space, repeatedly refused to wear masks when offered,” Pressley said in a statement Wednesday.
As The Washington Post reported Tuesday, at least three House Democrats have also tested positive for COVID-19 this week, after sheltering from the violent Jan. 6 attack in a crowded, windowless committee hearing room alongside several Republican lawmakers who refused to wear face coverings to limit potential transmission of the virus. Video published by Punchbowl News last Friday even showed four GOP members turning down face coverings offered by a colleague.
During the riot, Pressley reportedly grew so angry about their refusal that she left the room, saying that “we’re not going to survive a terrorist attack to be exposed to a deadly virus,” one of her aides told the Post. Her office said that Pressley and her staff moved between several different secure locations during the attack, after initially barricading themselves in her congressional office.
This past Sunday, the Office of Attending Physician advised House members who sheltered in that particular hearing room to get a COVID-19 test due to potential exposure to “another occupant with coronavirus infection.”
In her statement, Pressley said that Republicans’ “arrogant disregard for the lives of others is infuriating, but not surprising,” linking their behavior Wednesday to the Trump administration’s larger response to the pandemic.
“We are seeing the consequences of it daily, as several of my colleagues—and now my husband—test positive for COVID-19,” Pressley said. “Like many families in Massachusetts and all across the country who have been impacted by this pandemic, I am deeply outraged by the criminal negligence of the current administration in responding to this crisis, along with their accomplices in Congress who continue to downplay the severity of a virus that has claimed the lives of over 380,000 Americans.”
The announcement Wednesday came as the House held a vote on impeaching Trump a second time for inciting the mob attack.
In her statement, Pressley joined the calls for more robust measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside the Capitol, including “a strict mask mandate for everyone in the building, serious fines and immediate removal from the House floor and House buildings for those who refuse to comply, and access to free, universal COVID-19 testing.”
“While Conan and I will remain in isolation in the coming days, I will continue to carry out my duties as the Representative for the people of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District and look forward to holding this lawless president accountable for endangering our lives and our democracy,” she said.
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