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‘It’s like chemical warfare’: Ayanna Pressley criticizes GOP for not wearing masks after husband contracts COVID-19

US Representative Ayanna Pressley, talking to constituents in Boston in October.
US Representative Ayanna Pressley, talking to constituents in Boston in October.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The husband of US Representative Ayanna Pressley, who was with her during last week’s assault by a Trump-incited mob on the US Capitol, has tested positive for coronavirus, her office said.

Conan Harris, who tested positive Tuesday night, has shown mild symptoms and is in isolation. Pressley, who has tested negative, said she is also quarantining.

“While Conan and I will remain in isolation in the coming days, I will continue to carry out my duties as the Representative for the people of the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District and look forward to holding this lawless president accountable for endangering our lives and our democracy,” Pressley said in a statement.

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Pressley, Harris, and Pressley’s chief of staff were in various locations in the Capitol complex during the mob assault, including a secure room where, the attending physician of Congress has said, people could have “been exposed to another occupant with coronavirus infection.”

Three other members of Congress who were in the room, Democrats Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal, and Brad Schneider, have also tested positive for coronavirus since the Jan. 6 riot.

Pressley joined her colleagues in criticizing Republican lawmakers for not wearing masks in the room.

“As my colleagues and I sought shelter from the white supremacist mob that violently attacked our seat of government, we were greeted by a different threat — one posed by my callous Republican colleagues who, in this crowded and confined space, repeatedly refused to wear masks when offered. Their arrogant disregard for the lives of others is infuriating, but not surprising, and we are seeing the consequences of it daily, as several of my colleagues — and now my husband — test positive for COVID-19,” Pressley said.

“I am deeply outraged by the criminal negligence of the current administration in responding to this crisis, along with their accomplices in Congress who continue to downplay the severity of a virus that has claimed the lives of over 380,000 Americans,” Pressley said.

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She also said steps needed to be taken to protect the health and safety of members of Congress, their staffs, support and service workers, and journalists.

“That includes a strict mask mandate for everyone in the building, serious fines, and immediate removal from the House floor and House buildings for those who refuse to comply, and access to free, universal COVID-19 testing,” she said.

Pressley later called the actions of her Republican colleagues “criminal” in an interview with Don Lemon on CNN.

“By refusing to wear masks, it’s criminal behavior,” Pressley said. “It’s chemical warfare as far as I’m concerned.”

Pressley also commented on the GOP’s calls for unity as House Democrats voted to impeach the president for a second time: “Unity at the expense of my very existence?”

Pressley said her Republican colleagues who voted against impeachment have been “complicit from the very beginning” and are unfit to serve. She said lawmakers’ next orders of business should be to impeach, remove the president from office, expel those certain members of Congress, and conduct an investigation to “better understand the individuals and agencies that enabled this violent attack.”




Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com. Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker.