Washington: President-elect Joe Biden has slammed Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks while huddling in a secure location during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol despite the threat of coronavirus, telling them that “it’s time to grow up”.
At least four members of US Congress — including Democratic leaders Pramila Jayapal, Brad Schneider and Bonnie Watson Coleman — have tested positive for COVID-19 since the Capitol attack by Trump’s supporters which left five people dead.
“Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of the Congress while the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs refusing to wear a mask while they were in secure locations,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday.
“I’m so proud of my congresswoman, right here in the state of Delaware, Lisa Blunt Rochester, trying to hand out masks while people are lying on the floor huddled up, and her Republican colleagues were refusing to put them on. What the hell is the matter with you? It’s time to grow up,” he said.
“The result? At least four members of Congress today, including a cancer survivor, now have COVID-19 who were in those rooms,” Biden said. Congresswoman Coleman, who recently tested COVID-19 positive, is a 75-year-old cancer survivor.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has imposed fines this week on members who refuse to wear masks on the House floor, with a USD 500 penalty for a first offence and USD 2,500 for a second offence.
Biden said wearing a mask is not a political, but a lifesaving issue. “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. We need you to stick with the handwashing, social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings with people outside your own household,” he said.
“I hope we now know this is not a political issue. This is about saving lives. I know it’s become a partisan issue, but what a stupid, stupid thing for it to happen. This is a patriotic act. We are asking you, we’re in a war with this virus, and experts saying–have shown that wearing a mask from now until April will save as many as 50,000 lives,” the Democratic leader said.
US is the worst-hit nation in the world with over 23,530,460 coronavirus cases and more than 392,100 deaths due to the disease.
Biden reiterated his plans to call on all Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office.
“The day we’re inaugurated, we’re going to ask you to mask up for the next 100 days. This is not a political issue. And I will issue an executive order to require a mask where I have the authority to do that, in federal worker–for federal workers on federal property, on interstate travel by train and planes,” he said.
“We’ll also be working with mayors and governors in red states and blue states and require mask–and ask them to require masking up in their cities and their states,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic, Biden said, can’t solve US’ problems as a divided nation. “The only way we come through this is if we come through together as Americans, fellow Americans, as the United States of America. Vice President-elect Harris and I ran on that vision. And starting at noon on Wednesday, that’s exactly how we’re going to govern and ask for your help,” he said.