Representative Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of New York, announced Thursday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, as concerns continue to mount on Capitol Hill that efforts to lock lawmakers in safe places during the siege of last week by Trump supporters could have led to a super spreader event.
Mr Espaillat, 66, who received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, said he had no symptoms and was isolating himself at home. In a report, he said he understood that it took time for the vaccine to be fully effective and that he had continued to take all the necessary precautions. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that people who test positive for the virus must self-isolate for at least 10 days after the onset of their symptoms.
The two vaccines licensed for emergency use in the United States, manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, have been shown to be about 95% effective in preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19. But neither of the two vaccines is perfect, and researchers are still unsure how much vaccines reduce the virus’s ability to silently infect people. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections, separated by three or four weeks, and they are not expected to work fully until about a week or two after a person has received the second vaccine.
Capitol Hill has long struggled to control the spread of the pandemic within its marble walls, a random effort escalated last week as hundreds of unmasked Trump supporters stormed the building and forced lawmakers to take shelter in confined secure places throughout the Capitol complex. Lawmakers, assistants and journalists who took refuge in two separate rooms on either side of the Capitol have been warned of possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Although cases have continued to emerge since the 117th Congress was sworn in almost two weeks ago, House Democrats have blamed a group of their fellow Republicans who refused to wear masks during the attack pending in a safe place that the police regain control of the building.
Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, and Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, all tested positive following the attack and cited the Republican refusal to wear masks during the siege. Rep. Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat from Massachusetts, is in isolation after her husband, who was with her in the room, tested positive and said in a statement the diagnoses were the result of “my callous Republican colleagues” who refused to wear masks. .
In response to these accusations and concerns about the spread of the virus on Capitol Hill, the House earlier this week approved a system of fines for members who refuse to adhere to a mask mandate on the floor.
It is not known whether Mr. Espaillat took refuge in the secure room. But on Wednesday, he was among lawmakers who spoke in the House – while wearing a mask – before voting to impeach President Trump for the second time.
Mr. Espaillat noted that colleagues who had tested positive in recent days “collectively occupy a range of gender, age, race and ethnicity”.
“Covid-19 does not discriminate,” he said. “It is incumbent upon each of us to prioritize social distancing from each other – even if this poses a temporary inconvenience – and to wear a face mask. There is no single panacea and we must adjust our daily habits and practices for our own health and safety as well as for the health and safety of those around us and in our communities.