“I do think you have to anticipate that this is another surge event. You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol,” former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an interview earlier this month.
According to The New York Times, the new cases at the Capitol Police mark the highest spike among the force in months. Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, shared that union members have been pushing for COVID-19 safety measures since March 2020 with officers constantly risking the chance of exposure as they put their lives on the line of duty.
“The union had been pushing the department for testing and recently pushing for vaccines, but the incompetence of the USCP chiefs of police, both former and current with the new acting chief and assistant chiefs, speaks volumes of the lack of leadership at the top of the USCP,” Papathanasiou said in an emailed statement to DCist/WAMU. “The continued systemic failures of this Department is unacceptable and the congressional community as well as the officers that put their lives on the line every day deserve better than being led by inept chiefs of police.”
Following criticism of the lack of preparation for the riots and ill leadership, Steven Sund, the Capitol Police chief at the time of the riots stepped down. Yogananda Pittman was named acting chief becoming the first woman and first Black officer to lead the force, DCist/WAMU reported.
Alongside police officers and national security, at least eight members of Congress including Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson Coleman also tested positive after the attack.
Members of Congress were forced to shelter together for safety during the attack following which many Republicans were criticized for their refusal to or lack of wearing a mask while sheltering in groups.
“Following the events of Wednesday, including sheltering with several colleagues who refused to wear masks, I decided to take a Covid test. I have tested positive,” Rep. Coleman tweeted on January 11. Reports of the incident indicated that at least six House Republicans refused to wear masks or ignored safety instructions to do so during the riots.
A memo was also released to Capitol staff and lawmakers regarding possible COVID-19 exposure, CNN reported. “On Wednesday January 6, many members of the House community were in protective isolation in (a) room located in a large committee hearing space. The time in this room was several hours for some and briefer for others. During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection,” Dr. Brian P. Monahan wrote in the memo issued Jan. 10.
Statistics posted by the D.C. police department confirmed that since the Capitol riots not only have members of Congress, the National Guard, and Capitol Police tested positive for COVID-19 but at least 82 members of the D.C. police have as well, The Washington Post reported. The department is unable to confirm whether the positive tests are a result of working during the Capitol riots as officers continued to work around the city following the incident.
Amongst the majority of maskless individuals who chose violence on Jan. 6 were at least 30 cops from 12 different states, Daily Kos reported. As these people return home after their failed coup states nationwide are expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases. According to The Washington Post, federal officials estimate about 800 rioters invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6.