Hundreds of National Guard Members Test Positive for COVID After Protecting Capitol from Threats

Nearly 200 National Guard members who came into the nation's Capitol to protect the inauguration proceedings after the January 6 insurrection on the Capitol have tested positive for COVID-19.

Though these cases represent less than 1 percent of the 25,000 National Guard members who had been deployed to the Capitol over recent weeks, crowded conditions and a lack of face masks among the troops could worsen the virus' spread, especially since 15,000 are expected to leave Washington D.C. and return to their home states within five to 10 days, according to Reuters.

Additionally, 38 Capitol police officers have also tested positive, CBS News reports.

While the National Guard has said that every one of its members was screened for COVID-19 symptoms before arriving, not all members were tested for COVID-19, meaning that some could've been infected yet asymptomatic before deploying, being completely capable of infecting others.

Roughly 7,000 National Guard members are expected to stay in the district until February, and 5,000 are expected to stay until mid-March.

National Guard hundreds infected COVID-19 coronavirus capitol
Hundreds of National Guard members have tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into the nation's Capitol following the January 6 insurrection to overturn the election. In this January 13, 2021 photo, National Guard members rest in the Visitor Center of the U.S. Capitol. Stefani Reynolds/Getty

Numerous images have shown guardsmen laying near one another on the Capitol building's hard marble floors with no social distancing and only intermittent mask-wearing.

It is unclear whether the National Guard is following a range of CDC guidelines meant to reduce possible infections, some of which would be challenging to coordinate among tens of thousands of active troops across the district.

For instance, CDC guidelines suggest that anyone who has been in a large group or crowded indoor group should get tested. Furthermore, CDC guidelines state that individuals should remain quarantined even after receiving a negative test result. This is because PCR diagnostic tests can return false-negatives even a week after a person has been infected, according to MIT Medical School.

The National Guard said it wouldn't discuss the coronavirus cases, according to a statement reported by Politico. Newsweek has contacted the National Guard for comment.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that Capitol police had informed National Guard members that they could no longer rest within the Capitol building, driving others to huddle outside in the 30-degree weather or take shelter on the floor of an underground parking garage.

"Ideally, these guys should all be in hotels," Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said in response to these reports. "When they're taking rest time, they should be taking it outside the campus with an ability to be separated and socially distanced."

Guard spokesperson Major Matt Murphy told Newsweek, "As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area."

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman however, denied this. Regardless, Murphy said that troops would be supplied with hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodations at the end of their shifts.