Georgia health officials worry US Capitol attack will lead to COVID-19 super-spreading event

ATLANTA — The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now warning that the riots at the U.S. Capitol last week could cause a COVID-19 surge event.

Dr. Robert Redfield said flat out that the rioters, many of who stormed the Capitol building maskless, could be putting thousands of innocent Americans at risk as they returned home from Washington, D.C.

That thought scares people like Jarvis Wilson, who knows how dangerous the virus is firsthand. He battled COVID-19 a few months ago.

“The doctor said, ‘I have to put you on a ventilator for two days.’ I had no idea I was in a coma for over two and half weeks,” Wilson said.

He told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington that one of the things he noticed during the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was the sheer number of people not wearing masks.

“It’s almost like people are forgetting that it’s here and how dangerous it can be,” Wilson said.

Health officials say they will not know for weeks to come, but they believe the Capitol’s riots will most likely become a super-spreader event.

“So, if they don’t wear a mask in an environment like that, they aren’t going to think to quarantine after that high-risk environment,” said Dr. Amber Schmidtke, former assistant microbiology professor at Mercer University.


Schmidtke said many of the rioters were seen shouting as they charged the Capitol. She believes that action alone helped to spread the virus.

“Because when you breathe deeper, and you expel your breath when you are shouting, you send those viral particles further potential. So it just increases the risk of everyone involved of COVID-19,” Schmidtke said.

On Tuesday, Channel 2 Action News learned three Democratic lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19.

In a YouTube video from Wednesday, you can see Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware offer colleagues masks as they all sheltered in place during the riots.

In the video, several elected officials, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, stood in place without a mask on.

In a tweet, Rochester said, in part:

“While I was disappointed in my colleagues who refused to wear a mask, I was encouraged by those who did.”

Washington called Greene’s offices on Tuesday for comment on this issue, but her messages were never returned.

“We know about 40% of people will not show symptoms, so they might think that they are not infected, and then those silent carriers can contribute to ongoing disease contributors in their community,” Schmidtke said.

She told Washington that it’s important people know that the rioters at the Capitol will return home and then stop at places like the local postal office or the grocery store.

She now urges those people, especially those 65 years of age or older, to stay inside.

“This is really a good time to hunker down and shelter in place as much as you can,” Schmidtke said.

“I’m still looking at people who are not being careful, and they can still catch it. It’s only 9 months old or a little bit older, doesn’t mean you still can’t catch it because it’s still here,” Schmidtke said.

This comes as the virus is hitting record levels not only across Georgia but across the country.

More than 4,000 people across the country died from COVID-19 across the U.S. on Tuesday. Georgia set a new single-day record for deaths reported in the state on Wednesday, with 145 people.

The last time the state’s single-day toll came close to that number was in August.