Louie Gohmert Tests Positive for Coronavirus After Refusing to Wear A Mask

Lawmakers and Mr. Barr were seated more than six feet apart during the hearing, but reporters spotted an unmasked Mr. Gohmert outside the hearing room exchanging words with Mr. Barr and in proximity to him. A Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said that the attorney general would be tested on Wednesday.

An aide to Mr. Gohmert sent an extraordinary email to Politico after it broke the news of Mr. Gohmert’s diagnosis suggesting that the congressman’s entire staff had been ordered to continue going to work amid the pandemic in order to be an example of how the nation could safely reopen, and that those who wore masks had been berated for doing so. Many lawmakers have directed staff aides to work from home, and instructed those who come in person to wear a mask at all times.

Mr. Gohmert is among a group of House Republicans who have pointedly refused to wear masks in many instances while in the Capitol in recent weeks despite warnings from public health experts and an outbreak in his home state. In an interview from his office later Wednesday, he told KETK TV, a Texas Fox affiliate, that he would isolate for 10 days on the advice of doctors and would wear a mask “religiously” until he was cleared. But he said his diagnosis had vindicated his skepticism about wearing facial coverings to guard against the spread of the virus.

“There are an awful lot of people who think it’s the great thing to do all the time, but I can’t help but think if I hadn’t been wearing a mask so much in the last 10 days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it,” Mr. Gohmert said. “Moving the mask around, getting it sitting just right, I am bound to have put some virus on the mask that I sucked in. That is most likely what happened.”

Medical experts overwhelmingly say that wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to limit the spread of the virus, though they warn that using your hands to adjust your mask improperly can pose a risk.

Democrats were furious at the news, and both parties spent Wednesday morning scrambling to retrace Mr. Gohmert’s steps. It is a daunting task because Mr. Gohmert is a frequent schmoozer who could have come into close contact with dozens of fellow lawmakers and aides this week alone.

“I’m concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public health guidance,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and a member of the Judiciary Committee. He pleaded with Republicans like Mr. Gohmert to put on masks or go home.

Emily Cochrane and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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