Illinois congressman Brad Schneider is isolating in his family’s basement in Deerfield after testing positive for COVID on Tuesday, and while he says he can’t be sure where he got the virus from, he says that his exposure to the virus was “greater than any other time” when he was sharing a room with Republican lawmakers who refused to put on masks while locked down during last week’s riots at the US Capitol.
Schneider, who represents Illinois’ 10th congressional district, says that he has not experienced any symptoms from the virus, but that he’s isolated from his wife, who is considered “high-risk” for contracting the virus.
“Let me be clear, I don’t know from whom I got this virus or necessarily if I got it in that room,” he said. “But I know that my exposure in that room was greater than any other time through this entire pandemic.”
After a group of violent rioters stormed the Capitol building, Schneider and his Congressional colleagues were ordered to shelter in safe locations throughout the complex.
Video provided by Punchbowl News shows several Republican lawmakers refusing to wear a face mask in the room where Schneider was sheltering. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware is seen in the video offering them a surgical face mask.
“You see Lisa Blunt Rochester saying can you at least put on a mask and they’re saying 'thank you, but no,'” said Schneider. “Their actions and words speak for themselves.”
The congressman who refused to wear the face mask in the video is believed to be from Oklahoma. NBC 5 News reached out to him for a comment, but have not heard back as of Tuesday evening.
Schneider said dozens of people were in that secured location. He spent the first hour in the big room before moving into one of the side rooms where he waited for the all-clear signal.
Schneider was tested for the first time on Saturday but the results came back negative. He tested again on Monday and got the positive diagnosis on Tuesday. While the congressman says that he has no way of knowing whether he contracted the virus from another individual in that room, he calls it the “most likely” location for that transmission.
“The room where we spent the most time is the likely place most likely suspect,” he explained. “The fact that three of us have so far tested positive I think reinforces that.”
Two other congresswomen, Reps. Pramila Jaypal and Bonnie Watson were also in the same room and tested positive, according to Schneider.
“We made our way over to the House office building—we were all together,” he said. “I had a mask on in the gallery. I had a mask on the entire time we’re making it to the secured room and in the room I kept my mask on with the exception of taking a sip of water or a bite to eat.”
Schneider won’t call out any Republican lawmakers by name but said wearing a mask during a pandemic is just common decency and common sense.
“I can’t blame any one person, but I can condemn the acts of those people, who refuse to put on their masks and just out of courtesy try to keep everyone around them safe or as safe as possible.”
In response to the situation, House Democrats have proposed a rule that would allow for members to be fined if they refuse to wear a mask while on Capitol grounds. The fines would come out of the paychecks of members, meaning that they would not be able to use campaign contributions to pay for the assessed fines.
In the meantime, Schneider says he will remain isolated for at least 10 days in his basement following the positive test. He was vaccinated for the virus on Jan. 4, and says that he’s aware that the vaccine takes several weeks to take full effect in the immune system. If all goes according to plan, he still plans to get the second dose of the vaccine later this month.