We are yet to know the exact toll of the US Capitol siege. So five people are known to be dead 48 hours after Donald Trump incited his supporters to “walk down to the Capitol” and send lawmakers a message.
But here’s the thing. The events encouraged by Mr Trump, his son Don Jr and lawyer Rudi Guiliani, occurred in the middle of a pandemic. The real toll may tragically rise in the days and weeks ahead.
As health professionals and scientists have said, the assault on the US Capitol may have been a COVID-19 superspreader event. And American lawmakers – some of whom, especially in the upper chamber, are older folks – may suffer the consequences.
** The shouting mob – Mr Trump’s favourite people, those he said on January 6 that he “loved” – was largely unmasked as it invaded the temple of American democracy. The intruders didn’t observe social distancing as they rampaged through the halls of Congress and entered lawmakers’ offices. As University of California epidemiologist Anne Rimoin told The New York Times: “People yelling and screaming, chanting, exerting themselves — all of those things provide opportunity for the virus to spread, and this virus takes those opportunities”.
** Add to that the dreadful reality that lawmakers and their staff were densely packed for hours into secure locations when the insurrectionists entered the Capitol. Democratic Congresswoman Susan Wild told CBS News that after shots were fired inside the building, she was evacuated to a crowded location with 300 to 400 other evacuees. “It’s what I would call a COVID superspreader event,” she said.
That’s because roughly “half the people in the room” (whom she identified as her Republican colleagues) were not wearing masks. “People from the Republican delegation… some of the newer members that are freshmen this year are openly flaunting that they will not wear a mask and refusing to put a mask on… It’s exactly the kind of situation that we’ve been told by the medical doctors not to be in,” Ms Wild said.
So, in the 48 hours since the Capitol siege at least two members of Congress – both Republican members of the House – have said they tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Truly, it is with trepidation that we must wait for the real toll of the siege incited by Mr Trump to become clear.