Republican congressman suggests mask may have helped him contract coronavirus

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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Capitol Hill officials on Wednesday released new general mask requirements after a Republican congressman tested positive for coronavirus. The MP, Texas Rep Louie Gohmert, often avoided wearing masks and was known to vote without a mask.Pelosi announced Wednesday evening that all members will be required to wear a mask when voting in the House, and that one will be provided if anyone forgets.

Several hours later, the House Sergeant-at-Arms and Capitol Hill Chief Medical Officer issued an order requiring masks inside House office buildings, with a few exceptions. This mandate entered into force Thursday at 8 am.

Pelosi said failure to wear a mask on the Chamber floor is a “serious violation of decorum” for which members could be kicked out of the Chamber. Members can, however, temporarily remove them while speaking. In the Maison’s office buildings, people can remove them to eat, drink, and give interviews, among a few other specific situations.

“It is a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others in and around the room,” Pelosi said.

Gohmert tested positive just before he traveled to his home state with President Donald Trump. He was forced to cancel his plans and was immediately criticized by his colleagues for not always wearing a mask.

WATCH Trump in Texas, but not Gohmert:

Gohmert, 66, one of the most conservative and outspoken members of the House, told a Texas news channel that he tested positive before boarding Air Force One and that ‘he was planning to quarantine himself. He is at least the 10th member of Congress known to have tested positive for coronavirus.

In the interview with KLTV’s East Texas Now, Gohmert said he received a quick White House test that came back positive, then took a more thorough test to rule out a false positive. This test also came back positive, so “apparently I have it,” Gohmert said.

Gohmert suggested he could have contracted the virus while wearing a mask.

“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on, I could have put germs, part of the virus, on the mask and inhaled it. ”

Medical experts say masks are one of the best ways to prevent transmission of the virus, which is mainly spread through people in close contact.

‘Perfect petri dish’

Gohmert’s positive test has raised further questions about the lack of masks and testing requirements on the Capitol, as members frequently fly from their hometowns and gather for votes, hearings and press conferences.

“I think especially for those members of Congress who go back and forth, they represent a kind of perfect petri dish for how you spread disease,” said GOP Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman. of the Rules Committee of the Senate. “You send 535 people to 535 different locations, on about 1,000 different planes, and you bring them back and see what happens. ”

Blunt said he believes lawmakers should be tested every time they travel and that staff and others should be tested on occasion.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California wears a face mask as she arrives to speak at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Friday, June 26, 2020 (AP Photo / Carolyn Kaster) (AP)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Pelosi jointly rejected Trump’s offer of rapid tests for lawmakers in May, saying they wanted to allocate resources to frontline workers instead.

An eight-term lawmaker, Gohmert participated in the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday in which Attorney General William Barr testified. Before the hearing, Gohmert was seen approaching the meeting room behind Barr, and neither of the two men wore a mask.

Justice Department spokesman Kerri Kupec said Barr would be tested.

Gohmert also voted in the House on Tuesday and attended the National Resources Committee hearing, where a staff member sat right behind him on the dais as he spoke without a mask. The chairman of that committee, Democrat Raul Grijalva of Arizona, has said he will quarantine himself.

Several lawmakers are taking precautions

When Gohmert flew to Washington on Sunday, he sat next to Republican Texas MP Kay Granger, who was also quarantined after learning of his colleague’s test results. A third lawmaker, Republican Mike Johnson of Louisiana, said he was advised to quarantine after dining with Gohmert on Monday.

The wearing of masks had been strongly encouraged but not enforced for lawmakers on Capitol Hill, while other workers and law enforcement officials were required to wear masks. Committees had rules requiring face protection in courtrooms, but until now these were not needed in hallways or personal offices.

In a letter Wednesday evening, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland wrote to the House Employee Assistance Office and, citing Gohmert’s positive test, asked if officials had any “Sufficient resources to meet the increased demand for staff advice created by these incidents.” . He called for the office to take additional steps to publicize its services.

Most of the senators had worn masks, but a few had refused, including Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a doctor who says it is not necessary because he has already tested positive for the virus. There is no proven science that a person can no longer catch the virus.

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