Mouth caps mandatory again in the House of Representatives for all lawmakers, employees and reporters — including those who are fully vaccinated — the Office of the Attending Physician announced in the wake of new CDC guidelines.
“To be clear, for meetings in a closed room controlled by the US House of Representatives, masks are MANDATORY,” wrote Dr. Brian Monahan in a memo sent to staff late Tuesday night obtained by DailyMail.com.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will need face masks during her weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier this year, face masks were mandatory for everyone in the Capitol, but that rule was relaxed in June, allowing fully vaccinated people to go mask-free.
But in recent days, more lawmakers and staff have been wearing masks following news that one of Pelosi’s employees, along with other congressional officials, had tested positive for COVID.
Monahan argued that with lawmakers traveling from all parts of the country — including those with high infection rates — face masks make sense.
Congress, which represents a collection of individuals who travel weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), require all individuals to wear a properly fitting medical-grade filter mask (e.g., earloop surgical mask or KN95 mask) when they are in an interior space,” he wrote.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer recently wore facemasks around the Capitol amid cases of ‘breakthrough’ COVID
US cases have increased 376% in the past month, largely due to the Delta variant
Monahan noted that face masks are mandatory on the floor of the House — with lawmakers and staff subject to fines if they don’t wear one — although a lawmaker can remove the mask to speak.
He urged anyone who had not been vaccinated to do so, pointing out that the staffers and lawmakers who had “breakthrough” COVID cases — tested positive despite being vaccinated — had “no or minimal symptoms.”
“All of these recent individuals who had contracted the ‘breakthrough’ infection had no or minimal symptoms. There were no serious cases, confirming the protective value of the vaccine,” Monahan wrote.
The Pfizer vaccine is being offered to lawmakers and staff through his office.
Monahan said there was a “very high rate of complete vaccination” on Capitol Hill, although he didn’t give exact numbers.
All Democrats in the House have confirmed they have been vaccinated. But nearly half of House Republicans still don’t want to reveal their vaccination status.
Some Republicans have criticized the mask rule, pointing to conflicting advice from health officials, who said early on that masks were not necessary for the general public, only to advocate for it later, saying their understanding of how the coronavirus was transmitted had evolved.
Three Republican lawmakers — Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kentucky’s Thomas Massie and South Carolina’s Ralph Norman — are suing Pelosi over a previous facemask demand. The three were fined $500 each for violating the rule that required masks on the floor of the house, and the money was taken from their paychecks.
None of them wear face masks. Massie has said he thinks he had COVID because he tested positive for antibodies last year. Norman is fully vaccinated, according to his office. Greene has often said that it is no one’s business whether or not she has been vaccinated.
Some Republican legislators — such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (above) – refused to wear face masks and received fines
More lawmakers and staff wear face masks in the Capitol – above Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill wear face masks
Vice President Kamala Harris and Native American community leaders disguised for their meeting at the vice president’s ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House complex after the CDC issued new guidelines on face coverings
The memo from the attending physician’s office came in the wake of: new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged fully vaccinated individuals to “wear a mask in indoor public settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.”
It said 63.4 percent of counties now had levels high enough to warrant indoor masking.
Washington DC is rated as one of those areas where the rate is 52 cases per 100,000. The White House is also demanding that staff wear masks again, as the Delta variant increases the number of COVID cases.
The CDC said Americans should start wearing masks in areas where there have been more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents in the past seven days.
In the past month, the average number of new daily cases across the country rose by 376 percent, from 11,887 on June 26 to 56,635 on July 26.
“This is not a decision the CDC has taken lightly… this weighs heavily on me and all of America,” Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said at a news conference Tuesday.
She also warned that with rampant spread, only a few mutations are needed for the virus to completely bypass vaccines.
Currently, about 56 percent of Americans have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and half of the country is fully vaccinated.
That means more than 40 percent of Americans and 30 percent of adults have not been vaccinated at all.
At the White House, reporters on their way to an event with Vice President Kamala Harris were told on Tuesday afternoon that face masks were mandatory. Government officials supplied masks to those who did not have them.
Wearing a mask for the event — meeting with Native American community leaders — Harris acknowledged the misfortune over the new guidance as he pleaded with people to take their chance.
“None of us like to wear masks,” she said.
‘People should be vaccinated. People should get vaccinated,” she noted. “It will save their lives. This virus is no joke.’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has previously said President Joe Biden will follow all health guidelines and wear a face mask where appropriate.