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Joe Biden Scolds Congress Members Who Refused to Wear Masks During Capitol Riot Lockdown

Ashley Boucher
·3 min read

ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images Joe Biden

President-elect Joe Biden expressed his disappointment Friday in members of Congress who refused to wear masks while hiding during the failed insurrection attempt at the Capitol earlier this month.

Speaking about his novel coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine distribution plan on Friday, Biden blamed Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks while waiting out the siege for spreading the virus to their colleagues.

"This is not a political issue, it's about saving lives. I know it's become a partisan issue, but what a stupid, stupid thing to have happen," said Biden, who plans on issuing an executive order requiring masks where he has the power to mandate it when he takes office.

"Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of the Congress, when the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs, refusing to wear a mask while they were in secure locations," Biden, 78, said. "I'm so proud of my Congressman right here in the state of Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester, trying to hand out masks while people were lying on the floor, huddled up."

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"And Republican colleagues refusing to put them on. What the hell is the matter with them? It's time to grow up," Biden said. "The result? At least four members of Congress today including a cancer survivor now have COVID-19 who were in those rooms. For God's sake, wear a mask if not for yourself, for your loved ones. For your country. These are real matters of life and death."

At least five members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 since being forced to shelter in place during the riots on January 6.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) tested positive for the virus on Jan. 11 and said she "believes she was exposed during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots." Several of her colleagues who were sheltering in the same space as Coleman reportedly refused to wear masks.

Coleman, 75, is a survivor of lung cancer.

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The lawmaker said in a tweet Friday that she is "still feeling some cold-like symptoms but thankfully mostly mild."

Throughout this week, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-New York) all announced they had tested positive. Jayapal and Schneider both mentioned that they were in spaces with other members of Congress who refused to wear masks.

Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.) tested positive the same day as the riots, but was reportedly not in the same room as his Democratic colleagues who later tested positive.

In his speech Friday, Biden urged people to continue wearing masks, regularly wash hands, socially distance and avoid gathering indoors with members outside of their immediate household.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.