All House Buildings to Require Masks After Rep. Gohmert Contracts COVID-19

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday ordered all members of the U.S. House of Representatives to wear face masks while on the House floor.

The mask mandate follows news that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tested positive for COVID-19 after repeatedly refusing to follow recommendations that masks be worn. Beginning Thursday, masks will be required in all House buildings.

Pelosi previously ordered masks to be worn during committee hearings after Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), who also refused to adopt the preventative measure, was diagnosed with the virus along with his entire immediate family last month.

"Upon the direction of the Speaker of the House in consultation with our respective offices, effective Thursday, July 30, 2020, at 8 a.m., all persons entering the House office buildings shall wear a face covering at all times when the individual is in the House Office Buildings" reads a Wednesday night memo addressed to House members from Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician for U.S. Congress.

Rep. Louie Gohmert
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), pictured during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on June 24, 2020, tested positive for COVID-19 after repeatedly refusing to abide by recommendations to wear a mask. Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty

The order includes several exceptions that allow for the masks to be temporarily taken off, such as when a speech or interview is being delivered with physical distancing, or during eating or drinking. Children under 2 years old and those who have disabilities or conditions that require them to not wear a mask are also exempted.

Anyone who does not follow the order "will be asked to put on a face cover or leave the building." The order will be in effect "until a determination is made that such a requirement is no longer necessary."

During a Wednesday interview with Fox affiliate KETK, Gohmert claimed that he may have contracted the virus on one of the rare occasions he did wear a mask rather than one the many times he refused to wear one.

"I can't help but wonder if by 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," Gohmert pondered. "I don't know."

While House members are expected to follow the new directive, it's not clear whether Gohmert's positive test will have an impact on other Republican lawmakers who refuse to wear masks. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) were both spotted without masks after news of Gohmert's test broke, although Lee was later seen wearing a mask.

Last month, Gohmert vowed to not wear until he caught the virus, noting that he was tested regularly and had yet to test positive. During an interview with CNN, the 66-year-old said positive test would mean "you'll never see me without a mask."

After being diagnosed, he vowed to begin a course of hydroxychloroquine, despite most research showing that the treatment favored by President Donald Trump is not effective in treating COVID-19.