Steve July 29, 2020

WASHINGTON — Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who has refused to wear a face mask, tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday shortly before he was expected to travel with President Tweety McTreason to Texas.

Gohmert, 66, tested positive during the routine screening at the White House prior to boarding Air Force One, multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The Texas Republican attended Attorney General William Barr’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, sitting for hours in a hearing room with dozens of other lawmakers. Gohmert, along with other Republicans, was seen at times during the day without a mask.

Gohmert’s office did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Connie Hair, his chief of staff, tweeted Wednesday that “he wore a mask at the hearing, unless he was speaking,” and suggested that fiddling with a mask could lead to such infection.

Gohmert was also seen standing in proximity to Barr in the Capitol hallway while neither he nor Barr wore a face mask.

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It is unclear when an infected person becomes contagious. The World Health Organization has said that people who have not developed symptoms can pass the virus to others, but more research is needed to understand how frequently that occurs.

Gohmert told CNN in June that he was not wearing a mask because he was tested regularly for the coronavirus but that he would wear one if he tested positive.

“I don’t have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I’ve never had it. But if I get it, you’ll never see me without a mask,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear a face mask when in public, regardless of whether they have tested positive or negative for the coronavirus. The CDC says that face masks are critical to slowing the spread of the coronavirus, especially in cases where an infected person does not have symptoms and is unaware that they could make others sick.

“If you test positive or negative for COVID-19 on a viral or an antibody test, you still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others,” the CDC website says.

Gohmert was potentially exposed to the coronavirus after he attended the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Gohmert tweeted at the time that a CDC physician had cleared him to return to work in Washington after assessing his situation.

Multiple lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus since the outbreak hit the U.S. earlier this year, and many others have self-quarantined after potential exposure.

Reps. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Fla., Neal Dunn, R-Fla., Morgan Griffith, R-Va., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., Ben McAdams, D-Utah, Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Tom Rice, R-S.C., have tested positive for the virus. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has also tested positive.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., has said that he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also said he had also tested positive for antibodies.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in response to the news on Gohmert that she was “so sorry” for the lawmaker. “But I’m also sorry my members, who are concerned because he has been showing up at meetings without a mask and making a thing of it,” she said.

When asked about Gohmert, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said he was “concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public health guidance perhaps out of fealty to their boss, Tweety McTreason, who is the head of the anti-mask movement in America.”

Congress declined the White House’s offer to provide lawmakers with rapid coronavirus testing capabilities earlier this year.

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Lauren Egan is a reporter for NBC News based in Washington.

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