Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, making him the latest federal lawmaker to contract the virus and sparking a review of Capitol Hill’s ability to stiff-arm the pathogen.
The positive test prompted a scolding from prominent Democrats, since Mr. Gohmert was a prominent resister of mask-wearing and attended a Tuesday hearing featuring Attorney General William Barr.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Mr. Gohmert, a 66-year-old Republican, must use the physical distancing rules that Democrats have put in place, such as virtual hearings and proxy-voting.
“We have provided a way that people can not only go into quarantine themselves, but still represent their districts,” said Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “Frankly, too many Republicans have continued to act extraordinarily irresponsibly, including Louie Gohmert.”
Mr. Hoyer also said it might be time for Congress to reassess its springtime decision to reject the White House’s offer to provide rapid COVID-19 tests to Capitol Hill.
Mr. Gohmert said he tested positive during White House screening before a planned trip to Texas with President Trump.
He said he was tested a second time with a swab that “goes way up in your sinuses” and that was positive, too. He isn’t feeling any symptoms of the disease.
“But apparently I have the Wuhan virus,” Mr. Gohmert said in a video from his House office.
He said he will quarantine for 10 days, based on the advice of the Capitol physician.
“I will be very, very careful to make sure I don’t give it to anybody else,” he said.
Mr. Gohmert said he wore a mask during the Barr hearing, though a video clip posted by a reporter from The Hill showed neither man wearing a mask while close to each other in a Capitol hallway.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arizona Democrat and House Committee on Natural Resources chairman, said he will self-isolate until he gets tested and receives the results, citing prolonged exposure to Mr. Gohmert at a separate hearing Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, said the congresswoman is now self-quarantining after sitting next to Mr. Gohmert on a flight from Texas on Sunday.
Mr. Gohmert also had frequently appeared on the House floor without a mask, arguing he is tested often. On Wednesday, he chafed at scolding from online commentators and elsewhere.
“I’ve worn a mask more the last week or two than I have in the whole last four months, and I was wearing my mask at the Judiciary hearing,” he said.
At the same time, he suggested his mask might have been the culprit, saying he tends to readjust the face covering and he “can’t help but wonder if that puts some germs in the mask.”
The congressman’s positive test comes two days after the White House said National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien had the virus. The new case whipped up Washington as the broader nation grappled with a death toll that reached 150,000.
Florida set its single-day record for deaths Wednesday, with 216, bringing its total to 6,332.
New York has the highest death tally by far — over 32,000 — though it reported only five deaths Wednesday as it is experiencing a far lower pattern of transmission than in March and April.
Spikes in deaths show up in the data a few weeks after spikes in cases are reported on the front-end. The Sun Belt surge in cases — from Florida to Texas to California — appears to have hit a plateau, although officials are worried about new spikes in Midwest states, citing an uptick in the percent of tests returning positive.
“That’s a surefire indication that you are in a process where you’re heading towards a resurgence. We’re starting to see that in some of the states now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC.
He cited Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana as potential trouble-spots.
Mr. Gohmert is the seventh House member known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, had it earlier this year and at least two Democratic senators say they developed antibodies, suggesting they had had it but didn’t know it.
Yet Mr. Gohmert’s positive test sparked new warnings on Capitol Hill.
“He was a member that was unwilling to consistently wear a mask,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, as she ran a hearing on immigration.
She added another admonition: “If you’re unwilling to wear a mask that covers both your nose and your mouth, please do leave the room.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, rejected the White House’s offer of coronavirus tests for Capitol Hill back in May, saying they wanted to direct the resources to the front lines.
Mr. Hoyer said they might reconsider.
“I’m going to be discussing it with the Speaker, and with the Minority Leader [Kevin McCarthy], as to what we think is the policy that will be most effective,” he said.
⦁ Stephen Dinan and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.