CORONAVIRUS

Nancy Pelosi To Make Masks Mandatory In House Chamber

It's a "sign of respect to the health, safety and well-being of others," the House speaker said.

On the heels of a mask-defying lawmaker testing positive for COVID-19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday that everyone must wear masks whenever they’re in the House chamber. 

“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,” the California Democrat said on a call with other members of the House, carving out an exception for when people take the podium to speak.

Protective face masks are one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials have said. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this month that if everyone wore a mask right now, the U.S. could get the pandemic under control in as little as four weeks

“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect to the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas,” she added.

Masks will be made available at entrances for anyone who forgot one, she said. Refusing to comply will be considered a “serious breach of decorum” and could result in that person’s removal.

The mask rule will reportedly be extended to all House office buildings and the House side of the Capitol, Politico and Fox News reported. 

Previously, there was only a strong suggestion to wear masks and a requirement to do so while in committee rooms, but several Republican lawmakers have defied that in both spaces. 

Pelosi’s new policy comes hours after GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert confirmed he’d tested positive for the coronavirus. The Texas lawmaker has repeatedly been seen without a mask in public spaces and had dismissed their efficacy. In a video he released about his diagnosis, he claimed that wearing a mask recently and touching it with his hands may have caused him to contract COVID-19.

“I can’t help wonder if that puts some germs in the mask,” he said.

In reality, the CDC has concluded that direct contact with infected people is the most likely cause of disease transmission, with surface contamination being a much smaller risk. 

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