Some refused to wear masks despite the potentially deadly airborne virus plaguing the country.
Democratic congressmen were filmed with these Republicans in disguise. They said no. And now three Democrats have tested Covid-19 with positive results.
One of them, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a 75-year-old cancer survivor, underwent chemotherapy in 2018, making her case potentially serious. I am angry because the attack on Capitol Hill and my subsequent illness have the same cause: the inability of my Republican colleagues to accept the facts, Coleman wrote in the Washington Post.
Another, Reverend Brad Schneider, said in a statement that he was now incarcerated for fear that I would endanger my wife’s health and that he was angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-masks who put their own disregard and lack of decency above the health and safety of their colleagues and our employees.
And last week, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal told New York Magazine’s Rebecca Traister that she was afraid of exposure during the super PAC, because when the congressmen were taken to the secure room during the attack, there were more than 100 people there, and many of them were Republicans not wearing masks.
In an interview with the McClatchy news agency on Friday, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the turmoil on U.S. Capitol Hill is likely to be a general outbreak of the coronavirus and will have public health implications.
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In a statement, after testing positive for the virus, Jayapal said just hours after President Trump unleashed a deadly attack on our Capitol, our country and our democracy, many Republicans still refused to take the minimal precautions of Covid-19 and just wear the damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic, creating a major event in addition to a domestic terrorist attack.
She demanded that any participant who refused to wear a mask on Capitol Hill be immediately fined heavily and that a police officer be present to immediately remove any participant who refused to wear a mask.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are now pushing for legislation that would fine each House member $500 for the first time he or she does not wear a mask in the House and $2,500 for each subsequent violation.
This is the absolute minimum to be achieved.
Why would anyone knowingly endanger the lives of others when all they are asked to do is wear a cloth over their mouth and nose? It’s such a small task, and there’s so much at stake. How can we imagine the depths of random selfishness and malice, the total absence of the care and moral compass necessary to potentially and unnecessarily expose cancer survivors – or anyone else – to a virus that has killed some 380,000 Americans? The coronavirus continues to set a death record, claiming more than 4,000 American lives on Tuesday alone.
It’s not like those unmasked Republicans don’t have other options. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester tried to hand out masks to her co-workers. Some have refused, and they at least deserve to be called bad and shamed: The list drawn up so far includes representatives. Markwayne Mullin (Oklahoma), Marjorie Taylor Green (Georgia), Andy Biggs (Arizona), Michael Cloud (Texas), Doug LaMalfa (California) and Scott Perry (Pennsylvania).
(Green’s office told CNN that MP Green is a healthy adult who had a negative reaction to COVID only this week at the White House. She believes that healthy Americans should not be forced to wear masks. America needs to open up and get back to normal. The others did not respond to CNN’s request for comments).
Would wearing masks at all levels permanently prevent the virus from spreading to members of Congress trapped in a small room? Not necessarily – we know that being indoors for long periods without ventilation can create conditions conducive to the spread of Covid-19, even if you wear a mask. But we also know that wearing masks greatly reduces the risk of infection.
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And while we can’t know exactly where the infected lawmakers infected Covid, we do know that some of their colleagues didn’t care. (The CDC states that most coronavirus infections are transmitted by asymptomatic individuals.)
When Republican politicians refuse to disguise themselves, they send a terribly dangerous message to the American public. During this pandemic, some GOP governors have refused to impose the closures necessary to contain the virus. They and other Republicans politicized the wearing of masks and other important health measures – and they supported this president when he failed to address this deadly crisis.
If the president and his party had mobilized, many lives could have been saved.
The Republicans, members of the Party of Personal Responsibility, want to override. Since the Capitol was looted, they are basically calling for unity and asking Democrats for forgiveness and forgetting.
But it was the words of many members of their party and the lies of their leader that fueled this rebellion from the beginning. And it was the irresponsible and deliberately dangerous actions of Congressional Republicans that chewed off the masks and endangered the health of their own colleagues as they hid together from an unleashed terrorist mob. These leaders are a model of selfish irresponsibility for the entire nation.
We do not know how many more members of Congress will test positive for Covid-19, just as it is impossible to calculate the number of Americans who would avoid illness or death if all Republican leaders promoted better public health practices.
We already know that the FBI is investigating reports that pro-Trump forces are planning armed demonstrations in state capitals and Washington, D.C., many of which talk about bringing guns.
If we are ever to recover from these two disasters of pandemic and rebellion, we must understand what caused them and who sparked them, hold those responsible for them accountable, and learn from all these evil deeds. Today, many conservatives are calling for reconciliation. But reconciliation is impossible without truth and responsibility.
Those who put lives at risk, whether by ignoring simple public health guidelines or by spreading inflammatory rhetoric and blatant lies about the American democratic system, must recognize what they have done and face consequences commensurate with their actions. Maybe that means a fine, at Jayapal’s request. Maybe that means they have to stop working. A series of bad actions should lead to a series of serious consequences.
Right now, at least three members of Congress are suffering from a life-threatening illness that could well have befallen them by insurgents who have made it clear that they are victims of a president trying to steal an election.
We are more vulnerable than ever. If we are ultimately to achieve a place of safety, reconciliation and unity, we must demand reality and tell the truth – and the party that is not responsible must finally understand that actions have consequences.