The U.S. House of Representatives will reinstate universal mask requirements for all members, even though most lawmakers are vaccinated, a mandate that is being opposed by GOP leadership. Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted the mask mandate as anti-science, for which he was labeled a "moron" by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
On Tuesday, Capitol physician Brian Monahan sent a memo announcing that masks will be required in areas of the Capitol controlled by the House, The Hill reported. It's a decision that comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending that vaccinated people should wear masks in high-risk areas where the COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading.
Republicans have criticized the new guidance, complaining that the CDC is sending mixed messages about the effectiveness of vaccines.
"Vaccines work and vaccinated Americans should not have to wear masks," McCarthy said on social media Tuesday. "By forcing vaccinated Americans to return to masks, the Biden administration is not only casting doubt on a safe and effective vaccine but contradicting why vaccines exist."
Vaccines work and vaccinated Americans should not have to wear masks. By forcing vaccinated Americans to return t… https://t.co/xDQ5QdRhJQ— Kevin McCarthy (@Kevin McCarthy)1627422589.0
"Make no mistake—The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state," McCarthy said.
Make no mistake—The threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by… https://t.co/UcujZKZP8z— Kevin McCarthy (@Kevin McCarthy)1627439344.0
Mask mandates in the Capitol were dropped last month after the CDC initially said vaccinated people did not need to wear masks because they were protected from the virus. But the highly contagious Delta variant has been shown to be transmissible among vaccinated people, as demonstrated by a group of Texas Democrats that spread COVID-19 to a vaccinated White House official and a Pelosi staffer.
While most vaccinated people will not contract COVID-19, there are rare instances of breakthrough infections where a vaccinated person may get sick but will only experience mild symptoms because their immune system has been taught to fight off infection by the vaccine. The major concern with breakthrough infections is that vaccinated people may spread the coronavirus to someone who is unvaccinated and vulnerable to hospitalization or death from COVID-19.
Monahan justified the reimplementation of mask mandates by explaining that some members of Congress travel to the Capitol from areas of the country with large populations of unvaccinated people and could carry the Delta variant with them.
Pelosi supports the decision, telling reporters Wednesday that coronavirus restrictions are "the purview of the Capitol Physician ... the mandate from him. I have nothing to say about that except we honor it."
Asked about McCarthy's opposition, she said, "he's such a moron."