WASHINGTON — Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas who tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, suggested that he may have contracted the virus because he was wearing a mask, despite health guidance encouraging mask-wearing to reduce the spread.
“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, I might have put some germs — some virus — onto the mask and breathed it in,” Gohmert said in an interview with Texas station KETK.
Gohmert tested positive Wednesday morning at the White House, he said, ahead of a scheduled trip accompanying President Donald Trump to Texas on Air Force One.
He has frequently been seen without a mask while in proximity to others on Capitol Hill and told CNN last month that he wasn’t wearing a mask because he is tested often but would wear one if he tested positive.
The congressman is not symptomatic, and plans to self-quarantine for 10 days, he said, at which point he should be “fairly well immune.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is still unknown whether someone who has been infected in the past can become infected again.
The congressman said that in the last couple of weeks, “I have worn a mask more than I have in the whole last four months,” but acknowledged that he has also touched his face to adjust his mask frequently. The CDC cautions against touching a mask or face covering while wearing it, and advises washing hands or using sanitizer if touching the mask.
Gohmert participated in the questioning of Attorney General Bill Barr during a Tuesday House Judiciary Committee hearing and the two were seen walking in close proximity without masks in a video from The Hill that was posted on Twitter. Barr will be tested for the coronavirus after interacting with Gohmert, the Justice Department said.
Lawmakers urged their colleagues to wear a mask after Gohmert’s diagnosis on Wednesday. Gohmert previously refused to wear one while speaking on the House floor, and reporters on Capitol Hill have frequently spotted him without one.
“I want to wish @replouiegohmert a full & speedy recovery,” Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., 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.”
Nadler chided three Republicans for not wearing a mask during the hearing on Tuesday, calling out Reps. Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs and Mike Johnson by name for “violating the safety of the members of the committee.”
Gohmert said he wore a mask “most of the time, especially around folks” during recent House activities, but took it off while speaking. He said he has alerted people around him that he has tested positive.
“Now that I know I have it — obviously I’m not wearing a mask right now talking to you, but you’re not at risk of getting it through the internet,” Gohmert said during his interview with KETK from his D.C. office. “I will be religiously wearing a mask as I leave the building. I will not be around anybody for the next 10 days without making sure that I have a mask.”
Gohmert said he thinks people should be able to decide whether they want to wear a mask despite mandatory mask orders in many Texas counties, “but I do feel that once somebody has been found to have the coronavirus that they should wear a mask. Preferably not even be in public.”
Gohmert’s Democratic opponent for Texas’ first congressional district Hank Gilbert said in a statement that he sends his thoughts and prayers for Gohmert’s recovery.
“However, the fact that he still will not support the mask mandate of our own governor is truly disturbing,” Gilbert said.
“There are an awful lot of people that think it’s the great thing to do all the time, but I can’t help but think that if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would’ve gotten it,” Gohmert said. “I know moving the mask around, getting it just right, I’m bound to put some virus on the mask that I sucked in, that’s most likely what happened.”
Contributing: Nicholas Wu, Jason Lalljee, Kevin Johnson and David Jackson