House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that all lawmakers will now be required to wear a mask while appearing on the chamber floor, a decision spurred by the news that a Republican congressman who has spurned facial coverings had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The U.S. representative from Texas, where coronavirus cases have surged since the state reopened, said he tested positive in a prescreening at the White House. "This stems from a selfish act by Mr. Gohmert, who is just one member of Congress". But Gohmert has been seen swaggering around his D.C. offices in the cramped Rayburn building, the House floor, committee chambers, and myriad other locations in or around the Capitol while only sporadically wearing a mask and not observing social distancing.
"They're saying I berated staff for wearing masks", Gohmert told Sean Hannity in a Fox News interview Wednesday evening. Health experts are clear on the issue of wearing masks: they absolutely are effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
"I'm so sorry for him..." He also said he "can't help but wonder" if some germs slipped in when he had to adjust his mask because it wasn't comfortable.
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"Hopefully now he will look after his health, and others'", Pelosi added.
After his positive test, Mr Gohmert, an eighth-term lawmaker, returned to his office to inform his staff in person of the positive result. "I've regularly instructed all Members to wear their masks and hope this is a lesson by all my colleagues".
Multiple GOP senators said Wednesday they were pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to allow expanded testing.
Dr Brian Monahan, Congress' attending physician, advised members of the Judiciary Committee that they could be at elevated risk if they sat near Gohmert or used the same equipment, but said Democrats, at least, did not need to quarantine.
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However, what's really troubling here is that - as he confirmed by sharing the interview on his Twitter page - he is asymptomatic, and yet advocating that people should only wear a mask to protect others when you test positive, despite himself being someone with direct experience of being a potential asymptomatic spreader.
"Mr. Jordan, you made a unanimous consent request, objection was heard, those are our rules...."
The Hill noted that Pelosi implement a mask requirement for committee meetings a month ago, "shortly after another GOP lawmaker, Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.) - who was spotted without a mask on the House floor - tested positive for the coronavirus".
The number of lawmakers announcing that they were self-quarantining after exposure to Gohmert this week continued to grow on Thursday.
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Gohmert's diagnosis quickly set off a chain reaction of fellow lawmakers, staff and journalists rushing to self-quarantine and get tested.