Lawmakers Huddling in Capitol's Safe Room May Have Been Exposed to COVID, Warns Physician

Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of the United States Congress, warned lawmakers that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 while hiding in a safe room during the Capitol mob riot.

"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," wrote Monahan in an email sent to all members of Congress and staff on Sunday.

"During this time, individuals may have been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection," the physician continued.

The email was shared on Twitter by journalist Jake Sherman.

Monahan noted that members of Congress should take precautions in the coming weeks. The physician encouraged lawmakers to record their daily symptoms if they experience any, wear a face mask, social distance, and take a COVID-19 test.

It's unclear if all the lawmakers in the safe room were practicing proper COVID-19 safety measures. However, a video published on YouTube by Punchbowl News showed some lawmakers refusing face masks while in the safe room.

Six House Republicans—including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Michael Cloud of Texas, and Doug LaMalfa of California—were shown refusing blue surgical face masks offered by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware.

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Attending Physician of the United States Congress Dr. Brian Monahan is shown above walking through the U.S. Capitol on May 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. Monahan warned lawmakers they may have been exposed to COVID-19 while in a safe room during Wednesday’s Capitol mob riot. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)/Getty

Rochester told CNN on Friday that she was "very concerned we were sitting in a super-spreader event, but instead of sitting back and lamenting, I tried to go into action to try and persuade people to put them on."

"By the end of passing them out, I only had one left in my hand offering them to everyone," Rochester added. "I was disappointed in those who didn't accept the masks but was encouraged by those who did. At least we were a little bit safer."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) director, Dr. Robert Redfield, warned that the Capitol mob riot was likely a coronavirus "surge event" and "is going to have public health consequences."

"You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," Redfield told the McClatchy newspaper group. "Then these individuals all are going in cars and trains and planes going home all across the country right now."

"So I do think this is an event that will probably lead to a significant spreading," he added.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, as of Sunday, the U.S. has seen a total more than 22.1 million cases and over 373,000 deaths throughout the pandemic.

Newsweek reached out to the press departments of the House and Senate for comment, but didn't hear back in time for publication.