Pelosi is tightening restrictions on mask-wearing that had until this point been “strongly recommended” and largely adhered to by the vast majority of House members, other than the Trumpy no-mask holdouts, like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins, among others that either stridently refuse or only occasionally wear masks in the chamber. The rationales used are diverse and generally nonsense. “Can you smell through that mask?” Rep. Higgins asked a CNN reporter during an interview at the Capitol. “Then you’re not stopping any sort of a virus. It’s part of the dehumanization of the children of God. You’re participating in it by wearing a mask.” Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho told CNN “there’s just no need” to wear a mask because the “only way you’re going to get” herd immunity “is to get exposed.” These are obviously bogus lines of thinking and lead to situations like that of South Carolina Republican Tom Rice, who announced this week he and his son had tested positive for the virus after being asked just two-and-a-half weeks ago why he didn’t wear a mask around the Capitol.
New guidelines issued Tuesday by the attending physician of Congress, Brian Monahan, now require a mask for anyone meeting “in a limited enclosed space, such as a committee hearing room, for greater than 15 minutes.” Pelosi, in turn, directed committee chairs to require masks at committee meetings starting Wednesday and authorized the sergeant at arms to enforce the rule by barring entry to those refusing to cover their face.