July 29, 2020 / 10:41 PM / 12 days ago

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi announces mask-wearing requirement for lawmakers and staff

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listens during a news conference ahead of House votes on "the Child Care Is Essential Act" and "the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act" in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday that members and staff would be required to wear masks in the House of Representatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

Members will be allowed to remove their masks when addressing the chamber, Pelosi said on the House floor.

“The chair expects all members and staff to adhere to this requirement as a sign of respect for the health, safety and well-being of others present in the chamber and surrounding areas,” Pelosi said on the House floor.

The House sergeant at arms said in a statement later on Wednesday that “all persons entering the House Office Buildings” should be wearing a face cover, with some exceptions including when a person is “eating, drinking or legally smoking.”

The move came after Republican Representative Louie Gohmert, who steadfastly refused to wear a mask during the coronavirus pandemic, said on Wednesday he had tested positive for COVID-19, leading at least three of his colleagues to say they would self-quarantine.

Pelosi warned that she had the authority to ask the House sergeant at arms to remove a member from the floor for violating decorum, and “the chair views the failure to wear a mask as a serious breach of decorum.”

She said masks would be available at entry points to the House for members who forget to bring them.

Pelosi had said earlier on Wednesday that leaders had been discussing a mask mandate with the Capitol physician.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Tom Brown and Peter Cooney

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