Pelosi issues mandatory masks in House, authorizes Sergeant-at-Arms to remove non-compliant members

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After Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a directive requiring all members to wear masks in the chamber, except when they are speaking.

In addition, she directed the House Sergeant-at-Arms to remove any members who did not comply with her order, reports said.

Gohmert tested positive twice as he was screened before entering the White House Wednesday morning ahead of a planned trip to his home state with President Donald Trump.

In a video posted to Twitter, Gohmert explained that the rapid screening test came back positive, as did the longer test involving a swab inserted deeper into the nasal cavity.

He also said that he’s been wearing a mask more often over the past few weeks.

In announcing her mask mandate, Pelosi said, “Members and staff will be required to wear masks at all times in the hall of the House. Except that members may remove their masks, temporarily, when recognized.”

Later, the House Sergeant-at-Arms and attending physician issued directives requiring that masks be worn in all House Office buildings, the Washington Times reported.

There are exceptions, however. They include eating, drinking, being alone in an enclosed space, medical conditions, social distancing (six feet away from each other while speaking) or when it endangers public safety.

Non-compliance will result in members or other House employees being removed from the chamber or office buildings. The directives take effect Thursday.

Gohmert is the seventh House member to test positive for the virus. He noted Wednesday that he doesn’t have symptoms and feels fine but will self-quarantine for 10 days. He also said he got a message from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who tested positive for the virus earlier this summer, saying he will likely be immune due to antibodies following his quarantine.

The Texas Republican, like other GOP members, have been more resistant to wearing masks in the chamber and elsewhere throughout the House and surrounding buildings.

Gohmert wore a mask during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General William Barr. The Times said, however, that video posted to social media by a reporter caught the two of them walking in close proximity mask-less ahead of the hearing.

Other lawmakers who have recently been in close contact with Gohmert including Rep. Kay Granger, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, and Arizona Democrat Raul Grijalva of the House Natural Resources Committee said they would self-isolate for several days.

In issuing her mask mandate, Pelosi said it is “a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas.”

On Tuesday, Pelosi expressed sympathy for Gohmert but nevertheless chastised him for not regularly wearing a mask.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) also expressed empathy while taking the opportunity to score political points.

“I want to wish @replouiegohmert a full & speedy recovery,” he tweeted. “When individuals refuse to take the necessary precautions it puts everyone at risk. I’ve regularly instructed all Members to wear their masks and hope this is a lesson by all my colleagues.”

But Nadler himself has had difficulty keeping his mask in place on a number of occasions.

He also chastised committee Republicans on Tuesday for their alleged mask violations — while he, himself, was unmasked.

https://twitter.com/Breaking911/status/1288177265776439298

For her part, Pelosi regularly gives mask-less interviews and press conferences in the House Chamber.

As for Gohmert, he said during an interview with a Texas TV station that he “can’t help but wonder if my keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, that if I might have put some germs or some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in,” The Hill reported.

The outlet noted further that “public health experts, backed by multiple studies, say that masks are an effective way to prevent spread of viral droplets.”

But in fact, scores of health practitioners and experts have also noted that improper wearing of masks occurs frequently, thereby greatly reducing mask effectiveness. Frequent touching of masks without hand-washing also renders masks ineffective.

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Jon Dougherty

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