All House members and staff must now wear a face-covering “at all times” in the House Office Buildings in Washington, D.C., amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Directed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Attending Physician Dr. Brian Monahan wrote to all members of Congress on Wednesday, where they laid out the requirement of face coverings and a list of exemptions.
Among the exemptions include “actually eating, drinking, or legally smoking,” being “in an enclosed office that no one else is permitted to enter,” the inability “to wear a face cover due to a medical condition or disability,” “giving a speech or interview,” if a person is deaf or can’t hear well and needs to read lips, and if someone is in a swimming pool, among others exemptions.
The requirement to wear a face-covering is in effect “until a determination is made that such a requirement is no longer necessary.”
Pelosi also made the announcement on Wednesday on mask-wearing, saying if a lawmaker refuses to wear a mask on the House floor then the speaker has the authority to direct the sergeant-at-arms to remove the person. She called it a “serious breach of decorum” to not follow the mask policy.
See Pelosi’s remarks below:
Speaker Pelosi imposed a mandatory mask policy for the floor of the House, warning lawmakers that refuse to wear a mask will be considered a “serious breach of decorum” and will be removed by the Sergeant at Arms at the direction of the Speaker pic.twitter.com/7I3pNSYIJl— Mona Salama (@MonaSalama_) July 30, 2020
Pelosi’s announcement comes after Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday when tested at a screening at the White House, as IJR previously reported. This came as he was planning to fly with the president to Texas.
The House speaker responded to Gohmert’s diagnosis, saying, “I’m so sorry for him. But I’m also sorry my members, who are concerned, because he has been showing up at meetings without a mask and making a thing of it.”
My statement about today's diagnosis: pic.twitter.com/qvf7zIcgdN— Louie Gohmert (@replouiegohmert) July 29, 2020
Multiple Congressmembers have since said they will self-quarantine after being in close proximity to Gohmert. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) was on a flight with Gohmert last weekend and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) was in a hearing with Gohmert on Tuesday.
In contrast, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told CNN that he is “not concerned” about the potential of being exposed to the virus despite encounters with Gohmert last week.
He also said being close to Gohmert is like “interactions with perfect strangers on an airplane with circulating air. With cotton masks on an airplane, where everybody is pretending like they’re doing something noble to try to save people from a virus on a cylinder with 50 people on it flying through the air.”
Roy told me: "My question to you all is how are people wearing a cotton mask on an airplane saving you from circulating virus on an airplane?"— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 30, 2020
As The Hill reports, one member of the Capitol press, a Bloomberg News reporter, tested positive on Wednesday after having an exchange with Gohmert.