WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that lawmakers will be required to wear masks on the House floor after a Texas Republican tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple reports.
“Members and staff will be required to wear masks at all times in the hall of the House,” Pelosi said, according to Politico. “Members may remove their masks, temporarily, when recognized.”
Pelosi said failure to wear a mask on the House floor is a “serious breach of decorum” for which members could be removed from the chamber.
“It’s a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and in surrounding areas,” Pelosi said.
The House sergeant-at-arms issued a set of rules after Pelosi’s announcement requiring face coverings in all House office buildings, CNN reported. The rules went into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The announcement came after Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of a scheduled trip to Texas alongside President Donald Trump. The 66-year-old representative was often seen walking around Capitol Hill without a mask, a decision he defended last month to CNN.
“I keep being tested and I don’t have it,” he said in an interview published June 26. “So, I’m not afraid of you, but if I get (the coronavirus) I’ll wear a mask.”
Several GOP senators told The Associated Press they were pushing for more regular testing in the Capitol, as there is currently no testing program or requirements.
“I think particularly for members of Congress who are going back-and-forth, they represent sort of the perfect petri dish for how you spread a disease,” said GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, chair of the Senate Rules Committee. “You send 535 people out to 535 different locations, on about 1,000 different airplanes, and bring them back and see what happens.”
Gohmert is the latest lawmaker to be diagnosed with a novel coronavirus infection. Other members of Congress to test positive for COVID-19 include Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., according to The Washington Post.
The United States leads the world with the most coronavirus cases and the highest death toll. Since the start of the pandemic, officials have confirmed more than 4.4 million infections and reported more than 150,000 deaths nationwide, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Thursday, more than 17 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 667,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to Johns Hopkins.
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