As Capitol Police COVID-19 cases increase, it’s unclear when majority of force will get vaccine

Nineteen Capitol Police officers have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 8

A Capitol Police officer is pictured as rioters try to break into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021.  (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
A Capitol Police officer is pictured as rioters try to break into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress to certify the Electoral College votes of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted January 19, 2021 at 7:44pm

U.S. Capitol Police officers are continuing to contract COVID-19, and rank-and-file officers are frustrated they have not been briefed on when they can be vaccinated.

Nineteen Capitol Police officers have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 8, the most recent accounting since a violent mob invaded the Capitol, according to a House aide. The Jan. 6 riot seeking to disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win led to the death of five people, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

That marks a cumulative total of at least 78 Capitol Police employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the rioters were not wearing masks. Several lawmakers announced that they tested positive for COVID-19 in the days following the deadly riot.

On Dec. 28, Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, informed lawmakers in a memo that, in addition to the ongoing vaccination of members of Congress, his office is prepared to vaccinate two staffers from each member’s personal office and four staffers for each committee chairperson and ranking member.

Many staffers who work for members of Congress, though not all, are able to work remotely. The majority of rank-and-file Capitol Police officers, who are required to be physically present at the Capitol to protect Congress, have yet to receive the vaccine.

“Most of our officers have not been vaccinated yet,” said Capitol Police Officer Gus Papathanasiou, the head of the department’s union, adding that a lot of officers have been steadily asking the union about when they will get the vaccine.

Papathanasiou emailed acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman a few days ago asking about the department’s plan regarding the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine for officers. Another Capitol Police official answered Papathanasiou’s inquiry in a similar manner when he asked former Chief Steven Sund about it in late 2020.

“Basically, the answer I’ve gotten from the department is that they’re in the process of obtaining vaccines, which is the same answer that Steve Sund gave me in a formal meeting before the holidays,” Papathanasiou said.

Papathanasiou said he does not know if officers will get vaccinated in the near future. Meanwhile, the dedicated officers he represents are mad.

“A lot of them are pretty angry,” he said.

Eva Malecki, a spokesperson for the Capitol Police, did not say how many officers have received a vaccine thus far, but she said it is a priority of Pittman’s to provide the vaccine to officers. Malecki also noted that COVID-19 testing is available to all Capitol Police employees.

“One of Acting Chief Pittman’s top priorities is to provide USCP officers with the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as the vaccine becomes more readily available,” Malecki said. “The Department is working with the Office of Attending Physician and other health care providers to ensure that all of our sworn officers who want to receive the vaccine are vaccinated. The Department also is providing COVID-19 testing for all USCP employees.”