U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has instituted a new rule mandating the use of face masks for those entering the congressional chamber, according to The Hill.
She announced the update in a statement from the House floor on Wednesday.
“Sign of respect”
“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,” she said.
While Pelosi noted that masks would be available for those who arrive without one, she said anyone found to be in violation of the new rule would be denied entry to the House chamber and would be physically removed by the sergeant at arms for refusing to comply.
She advised that face masks represent a “sign of respect for the health, safety, and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas.”
The latest coronavirus-related safety measure came on the heels of an announcement by U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) that he had tested positive for the virus. While Pelosi and others stress the use of face coverings in the interest of preventing further spread of the pandemic, Gohmert promoted an opposing theory regarding his exposure.
“It’s really ironic,” he said in an interview with Texas NBC affiliate station KETK. “Because, you know, a lot of people have made a big deal out of me not wearing a mask a lot, but in the last week or two I have worn a mask more than I have in the whole last four months.”
“Fiddling with the mask”
Gohmert went on to speculate that he “might have put some germs or some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in,” thus exposing himself to the virus.
“But I got it, we’ll see what happens from here, but the reports of my demise are very premature,” he said.
While his reaction earned some criticism, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci warned earlier this year of such “unintended consequences” of mask use. He said at the time that “people keep fiddling with the mask and keep touching their face,” which could lead to contamination and possible illness.
Nevertheless, colleagues including Rep. Raul Grijalva have reprimanded Gohmert. The Arizona Democrat, who is now being required to self-quarantine as a result of the positive test result, said the situation “stems from a selfish act” by Gohmert, according to The New York Times.
Pelosi is obviously concerned about preventing further spread within the House, and only time will tell if her plan to do so will be effective.