Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who refused to wear a mask, tests positive for COVID-19
Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert,
who refused to wear a mask,
tests positive for COVID-19
Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who has dismissed calls to wear a mask while working on Capitol Hill, tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to require members and staff to wear masks on the House floor.
Gohmert, 66, tested positive in a pre-screening procedure at the White House before he was scheduled to fly with President Donald Trump to Texas on Wednesday. Following his positive diagnosis, he returned to his Capitol Hill office to inform his staff. He wore a face covering to deliver the message.
Republican sources on Capitol Hill told ABC News that Gohmert’s full staff has been in the office in recent days and that, at times, staffers were chastised for wearing masks.
The congressman posted a video to Twitter Wednesday afternoon confirming he had tested positive twice at the White House — once with a quick test and again with a swab test.
“The reports of my demise are a great deal premature,” he said in the video. “I’m asymptomatic.”
Gohmert went on to say he has worn a mask “more in the last week or two than I have in the whole last four months” and suggests he may have touched his face more because of it.
“I don’t know about everybody, but when I have a mask on I’m moving it to make it comfortable, and I can’t help but wonder if that puts some germs in the mask,” Gohmert continued. “But now that I apparently have it, I will be very, very careful to make sure I don’t give it to anybody else, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Though social distancing precautions were in place, a video circulating on social media from a reporter at The Hill apparently shows Barr and Gohmert, both unmasked, walking into the hearing room in close proximity Tuesday.
The attorney general was tested later on Wednesday and returned a negative result, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec told ABC News. Barr plans to continue self-monitoring and will be tested regularly.
Democratic lawmakers already have expressed anger at the news. In a call with reporters, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Gohmert’s actions “put others at risk,” adding that “too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert.”
Hoyer added that House leaders may need to reconsider widespread testing for House members.
After Gohmert returned to his office Wednesday morning to share the results, Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., said in a pointed tweet that members of Congress who refuse to wear masks are endangering both their colleagues and Capitol Hill staff.
Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who is 77, is entering quarantine after coming into close contact with Gohmert on Sunday.
“Ranking Member Granger was seated next to Representative Gohmert on a flight from Texas Sunday evening. At the direction of the Attending Physician, and out of an abundance of caution, she is self-quarantining,” Granger’s spokeswoman said in a statement.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., the 72-year-old chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, also planned to self-quarantine and get tested for COVID after contact with Gohmert.
“I’m self-quarantining until I take a test and then again until results are in. In the meantime, my work schedule and the lives of my employees are disrupted. This stems from a selfish act by Mr. Gohmert, who is just one member of Congress,” he said.
Republican staff on the House Natural Resources Committee also planned to self-quarantine at the advice of the House’s attending physician, a spokesman told ABC News.
Last month, Gohmert said he was choosing to not wear a mask because he was being tested regularly, a reasoning Trump has also used.
“I don’t have the coronavirus — turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it. But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he told CNN in June.
When warned about the asymptomatic transmission of the virus, Gohmert replied, “But I keep being tested and I don’t have it. So I’m not afraid of you, but if I get it, I’ll wear a mask.”
Gohmert is one of a number of members of Congress who lives in his office and uses the shared facilities to bathe. The eight-term congressman is at least the 10th lawmaker to test positive for the novel virus.
Pelosi on Wednesday took to the House floor to require staff and members to wear masks at all times on the House floor unless they are recognized to speak in the chamber.
“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect for the health safety and wellbeing of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas,” she said, adding that they will “not be permitted” to enter the House chamber without masks.
The Gohmert episode has prompted some congressional leaders to revisit the possibility of rapid coronavirus testing on the Hill. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected an offer for several Abbott rapid testing machines from the White House in May, noting the country’s strained testing supplies.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Wednesday that the offer still stands.
“Someone will catch COVID, you want to be able to trace it put him out and just as Congressman COVID — I mean Congressman Louie Gohmert says, that he doesn’t have other symptoms, there could be other people like that,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters.
ABC News’ Alexander Mallin, John Parkinson, Ali Pecorin, Mariam Khan and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.