Could the Assault on the Capitol Prove to Be a COVID-19 Super Spreader Event?

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The violent siege on the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Wednesday left the nation shaken to its core, but new concerns have mounted around the possibility of the insurrection proving to be a coronavirus super spreader event.

The United States has seen five of the deadliest days in the last two weeks since the virus began, CNN reported, as more than 4,000 deaths were reported Thursday. There have been over 365,300 deaths in the country since the pandemic started, according to the latest data by Johns Hopkins University.

Congresswoman Susan Wild, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, shared her concerns over the insurrection being a super-spreader event with CBS News Wednesday as she and other members of Congress were huddled together in close quarters for protection.

"It's exactly the kind of situation that we've been told by the medical doctors not to be in, you know, close proximity, especially with people who aren't wearing masks," Wild said. "We weren't even allowed to get together with our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now we're in a room with people who are flaunting the rules and are very much crowded in here."

She said that she, along with 300 to 400 members of congress, were placed in a secure location and some lawmakers were not wearing masks.

"It's what I would call a COVID super spreader event. About half of the people in the room are not wearing masks, even though they've been offered surgical masks," Wild said on CBS News. "They've refused to wear them."

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell told Inside Edition she is also concerned that the assault on the Capitol will turn into a super spreader event. 

"The chances of the latest mutation of the COVID virus that is more quickly transferable, the chances of that having been there among that crowd are very high," she said. 

She said she has had a crucial question once order was restored.  

"I know that they attempted to sanitize the Capitol before we went back to work," she said. "I asked the doctor if we should quarantine. Now he told me he didn't think we should quarantine, but he did think it was important to get tested. So I will do that."

Adding to concerns, it was revealed Friday that newly elected Kansas Congressman Jake LaTurner tested positive COVID-19, he said in a statement.

Experts have said COVID-19 is especially contagious indoors and can spread quickly through the air in aerosol particles, which makes crowded spaces especially concerning as potential super spreader opportunities. People, many of whom were not wearing masks, were seen screaming and shouting as they violently entered the Capitol were seen screaming and shouting. 

"People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide opportunity for the virus to spread, or similar," Ann Rimoin, an infectious disease expert at the UCLA, told Inside Edition.

CBS News contributor Dr. David Agus echoed Rimoin, saying in an email to Inside Edition Digital: "The lack of masks in many leads to virus spread. Unfortunately, we will see an uptick in cases 7 [days] or so from the event.”

Though the one-year anniversary of the pandemic's onset is nearing, and the effectiveness of mask-wearing as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been proven, Agus said many are experiencing "covid fatigue."

“I think there is a lot of Covid-fatigue out there, but with virus numbers where they are in the country it is critically important we all wear masks and halt its spread,” he wrote.

The events in Washington were preceded by a rally, which President Trump, his son Donald Jr., and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani attended. Many attendees of the rally came from across the country and had flown or drove to the Capital, which could potentially leave Washington, D.C., further vulnerable to the novel virus.

“We have seen that before with other large gatherings- an increase in cases in the participants and a hit on the ‘host city’ unfortunately,” Agus said.

The average number of daily new infections in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. reached a record high Thursday, the Washington Post reported. Current COVID-19 hospitalizations in D.C. have risen 19% in the past week. 

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