Representative Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of New York, announced on Thursday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, as concerns continue to mount on Capitol Hill that efforts to corral lawmakers into secure locations during last week’s siege by Trump supporters may have led to a super-spreader event.
Mr. Espaillat, 66, who received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, said he was not experiencing any symptoms and that he was isolating at home. In a statement, he said he understood that it took time for the vaccine to be fully effective and that he had continued to take all necessary precautions. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that people who test positive for the virus should isolate for at least 10 days after their symptoms start.
The two vaccines cleared for emergency use in the United States, made by Pfizer and Moderna, were shown in clinical trials to be about 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic cases of Covid-19. But neither vaccine is perfect, and researchers remain unsure of how well the shots curb the ability of the virus to silently infect people. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two injections, separated by three or four weeks, and they aren’t believed to fully kick in until about a week or two after a person receives the second shot.
Capitol Hill has long struggled to control the spread of the pandemic within its marble walls, a haphazard effort exacerbated last week as hundreds of maskless Trump supporters stormed the building and forced lawmakers to shelter in confined secure locations across the Capitol complex. Lawmakers, aides and reporters who took shelter in two separate rooms on both sides of the Capitol have been warned about possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Though cases have continued to emerge since the 117th Congress was sworn in nearly two weeks ago, House Democrats have blamed a group of their Republican colleagues who refused to wear masks during the attack while waiting in a secure location for law enforcement to regain control of the building.
Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, and Brad Schneider, Democrat of Illinois, have all tested positive in the aftermath of the attack and cited the Republican refusal to wear masks during the siege. Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, is in isolation after her husband, who was with her in the room, tested positive, and in a statement said the diagnoses were a consequence of “my callous Republican colleagues” who refused to wear masks.
In response to those accusations and concerns about the spread of the virus on Capitol Hill, the House earlier this week approved a fine system for members who refuse to adhere to a mask mandate on the floor.
It was unclear whether Mr. Espaillat took shelter in the secure room. But on Wednesday, he was among the lawmakers who spoke on the House floor — while wearing a mask — before voting to impeach President Trump for the second time.
Mr. Espaillat noted that the colleagues who had tested positive in recent days “collectively occupy a range of gender, ages, races and ethnicities.”
“Covid-19 does not discriminate,” he said. “It is incumbent on each of us to prioritize social distancing from one another — even if that poses a temporary inconvenience — and wear a face mask. There is no singular panacea and we must adjust our daily habits and practices for our own health and safety as well as the health and safety of those around us and throughout our communities.”