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House of Representatives Reimposes Mask Mandate in Its Chamber

House of Representatives Reimposes Mask Mandate in Its Chamber
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House of Representatives Reimposes Mask Mandate in Its Chamber

House of Representatives Reimposes Mask Mandate in Its Chamber

The House of Representatives will once again demand that all lawmakers and staff wear masks indoors, a sharp reversal in policy as growing fears over the Delta variant reach the door of Congress. Senators will also be encouraged to dress up, but are not required to do so.

In a memo Tuesday night, Dr Brian P. Monahan, the top physician in Congress, said he was recommending the change based on the new guidelines from the CDC and the nature of the Capitol, where thousands of people traveling from all over the country mix together every week. President Nancy Pelosi formalized the change on the House floor on Wednesday morning.

“For Congress, representing a set of people traveling each week from various risk areas (both high and low disease transmission rates), all people should wear a well-fitting medical grade filter mask (eg. earring or KN95 mask) when in an indoor space, ”Dr Monahan wrote to House officials.

In a letter to senior Senate officials, Dr Monahan offered the same advice but did not recommend a mask warrant. The Senate is a smaller body and for much of the pandemic its members voluntarily wore masks. Most senators are vaccinated.

The House triumphantly dropped its long-held mask requirement six weeks ago in a show of optimism about the pandemic’s loosening grip.

Since then, at least one House lawmaker and an assistant to President Nancy Pelosi have tested positive for the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated. Others on Capitol Hill have entered voluntary quarantine after being exposed to people with Covid-19, and the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday canceled a business meeting after staff were tested positive for the virus, a committee aide said. At the same time, new cases have exploded across the country.

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Like the CDC’s broader mask guidelines and the aggressive interventions President Biden envisioned to increase the country’s vaccination rate, the new House mask term is likely to test the patience of a weary public. and the opposition Republican Party, which is eager to accuse Democrats of undermining vaccine confidence and jeopardizing the health of the recovering economy. Republicans in the House immediately protested and raised the possibility that they would refuse to comply.

“Make no mistake – the threat to bring back masks is not a science-based decision, but a decision evoked by representatives of the Liberal government who want to continue living in a state of perpetual pandemic,” said the representing Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and Minority Leader, wrote on Twitter.

House rules state that any lawmaker who does not wear a mask in specified spaces of the Capitol complex can be fined $ 500 or more. Several Republicans were fined earlier this year for this reason. But it’s unclear what Ms Pelosi and other House leaders would do if many Republican members refused to follow them.

Signs of such resistance were seen Wednesday morning minutes after Ms Pelosi announced the updated rules. When a member of staff assigned to work upstairs in the House handed Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado a mask, she returned it to the person, according to another aide who witnessed the exchange and requested anonymity to describe it.

Asked about Mr McCarthy’s comments on Wednesday, Ms Pelosi did little to hide her contempt. “He’s a fool,” she heard reporters say.

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Ms Pelosi’s spokesperson later said he could not verify his precise words, but that the speaker did indeed consider Mr McCarthy’s position on the issue “to be stupid”.

Senate Republicans have taken a more conciliatory approach, with their top leaders begging conservatives who have refused the vaccination to get the shot. For example, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, plans to start using tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to run radio ads in his home state promoting vaccines against the coronavirus as a “modern medical miracle” and urging his constituents to accept them.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, do what’s right for yourself – for your family – and get vaccinated now,” said Mr McConnell, who recounts his own battle with polio in the ad. . “I am Mitch McConnell and I approved this post.”


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