At Least 38 Capitol Police Officers Test Positive For COVID-19 Since Jan. 6 Riots Union leaders are criticizing the "continued systemic failures" of USCP leadership.
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NPR logo At Least 38 Capitol Police Officers Test Positive For COVID-19 Since Jan. 6 Riots

At Least 38 Capitol Police Officers Test Positive For COVID-19 Since Jan. 6 Riots

Capitol Police officers on Jan 20, 2021, Inauguration Day. Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist hide caption

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Tyrone Turner/WAMU/DCist

The count of COVID-19 cases in the wake of the January 6 insurrection continues to grow.

A total of 38 U.S. Capitol Police officers have tested positive as of Friday night, according to a union leader for the force.

Approximately 150 National Guard troops have also tested positive since the attack, CBS News reported on Friday. A spokesperson for the Guard declined to confirm that figure to DCist, saying only that "National Guard personnel are following CDC guidelines." Troops were screened and had their temperature taken upon arrival in D.C., but they were not tested.

And at least eight members of Congress have received COVID-19 diagnoses over the past two weeks, some of whom were huddled together in a holding room with Republicans who refused to wear masks.

The thousands of unmasked Trump supporters at the storming of the Capitol raised fears of a super-spreader event that could expose local residents and law enforcement officers to coronavirus. The new cases at the Capitol Police, which were first reported by the New York Times, mark the highest spike among force in months.

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Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police Labor Committee, had harsh words for leaders, saying the union had been voicing concerns about COVID-19 protections since March 2020.

"The union had been pushing the department for testing and recently pushing for vaccines, but the incompetence of the USCP chiefs of police, both former and current with the new acting chief and assistant chiefs, speaks volumes of the lack of leadership at the top of the USCP," Papathanasiou said in an emailed statement to DCist/WAMU. "The continued systemic failures ‎of this Department is unacceptable and the congressional community as well as the officers that put their lives on the line every day deserve better than being led by inept chiefs of police."

Steven Sund, the Capitol Police chief, stepped down from his role following the riots, and Yogananda Pittman was named acting chief, becoming the first woman and first Black officer to lead the force. A number of Capitol Police officers were suspended and at least a dozen were investigated for their involvement in or support of the violence.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which at one point led the effort to clear the angry mob from the Capitol, has also seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

As of January 6, a total of 498 MPD personnel had tested positive over the course of the pandemic. By Jan. 21, that number had jumped by 82, reaching 580 total cases. It appears to be one of the biggest jumps in positive cases in the recent data.

That increase also came amid a huge regional spike in COVID-19 cases since the December holidays, soaring past fall and spring records.

"At this time MPD is not able to ascertain if officers who have tested positive for COVID-19 contracted it as a result of working during the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6," a spokesperson for the department told DCist/WAMU in a statement.

As the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations continues across the region, the District is opening appointments to MPD members starting on Monday, according to DC Health. MPD tweeted Friday that members of the command staff had received their vaccinations. Papathanasiou told Roll Call earlier this week that it was unclear when Capitol Police officers would receive vaccines.

Meanwhile, the acting chief of the U.S. Park Police tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

Amid reports of officer burnout among both the National Guard and Capitol Police officers, Papathanasiou says officers are working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.

"I, too am worried about officers getting burnt out," he said. "The union has asked for days off and schedules to change, but the department's chiefs have yet to make a decision."

Huffington Post reporter Matt Fuller tweeted Friday that Guard members and USCP officers are "worn out," and that officers have been working 12-hour days since the Jan. 6 insurrection.

While USCP did not respond to DCist/WAMU's request for comment, the department released a public statement Friday, saying it had requested that the National Guard adjust schedules to keep troops to shifts of no more than eight hours "to allow for more off-campus rest time post-inauguration." USCP says the Guard is "reviewing the request."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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