Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis are threatening to ban Republican members who don't wear face coverings from participating in future face-to-face meetings.
The decision comes after Republicans in Congress have repeatedly ignored a requirement from Capitol health experts to wear face coverings. The situation came to a head on Friday when Subcommittee Chair Jim Clyburn reminded his GOP colleagues they were in violation of a the attending physician's mandate.
Clyburn is sending a letter to Republican Steve Scalise, House minority whip, saying that any member of Congress not wearing a mask will not be recognized in a hearing or meeting about the virus.
"Going forward, as long as the Attending Physician's requirement to wear masks is in place, I will not recognize any Member of this Subcommittee to participate in person in any Subcommittee meeting or hearing unless the Member is wearing a mask and strictly adheres to the Attending Physician's guidance," Clyburn said in a letter to Scalise.
Jim Clyburn's mask. https://t.co/MNrLbEQuS6— Michael McAuliff (@Michael McAuliff) 1593112140.0
The physician recommends that any member who will not wear a mask should attend the meeting remotely.
"For the United States House of Representatives meetings, in a limited and closed space such as a committee hearing room for greater than 15 minutes face coverings are required," Clyburn said.
"And we're not going to have another meeting in a confined space if we're not going to abide by this," she added. "I will stay in the safety of my home as I would ask all you to do."
Scalise responded by saying that House members are adhering to social distancing guidelines.
"I understand doctors might look at things differently and want to give even extra precautions, but the precautions that have been out there are clearly being followed," Scalise said.
It's a little disheartening that someone on the Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis doesn't take a doctor's advice seriously. Especially when his job is to help stop the spread of a virus that has already killed over 120,000 Americans.
"Why is it some kind of macho thing, like, 'if I don't wear a mask, I'm tough'?" Democratic representative Jamie Raskin asked during the committee hearing Friday morning. "If you want to be tough, go spend the day with the nurses and doctors in the hospitals."
Steve Scalisevia Wikimedia Commons
Dozens of members of Congress have been quarantined because they've either come into contact with the virus or contracted it themselves. Representative Maxine Waters' sister died from the virus.
Unfortunately, the unwillingness for some Republican members of Congress to wear a mask echoes a sentiment expressed by conservatives across the country. A poll taken in the second week of June found that 60% of Democrats and about 34% of Republicans say they regularly wear masks in public.
According to a Health Affairs study released June 16, if the U.S. had adopted more aggressive mask policies as many as 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 cases may have been averted.
The decision to wear a mask has been politicized during the coronavirus crisis. Notably, the president has refused to wear one, signaling many conservatives to do the same.
"Trump had not made a point of not wearing a mask," pollster Chris Jackson, senior vice president for Ipsos Public Affairs, told Market Watch.
"Once he very clearly did not wear a mask in public, that transmitted a signal that if you're a good supporter of the president you don't wear a mask," he said.
However, COVID-19 is neither a Democrat or a Republican and strikes where it has the opportunity. So, as expected, the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in states where fewer people wear masks.
The Washington Post reported that seven states reached new highs for coronavirus hospitalizations last week, and only one is a blue state.
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