The House of Representatives is again requiring people to wear masks to protect against COVID-19, in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance. And the mandate is again inspiring some fierce — and personal — partisan sniping.
House Attending Physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan reinstated the mask mandate late Tuesday night both for people who are and are not vaccinated. The mandate came after the CDC changed course earlier in the day, recommending that everyone wear a mask in public indoor spaces in regions with high or substantial transmission rates for the deadly virus.
When Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy questioned the decision, Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday morning called the California Republican “a moron.”
The agency’s recommendations were based on data suggesting that, with the onset of the highly contagious delta strain of COVID-19, even a vaccinated person who catches the virus can transmit it to others.
Mr. Monahan noted in a memo that people constantly travel to Congress from all parts of the country.
“For the Congress, representing a collection of individuals traveling weekly from various risk areas (both high and low rates of disease transmission), all individuals should wear a well-fitted, medical-grade filtration mask … when they are in an interior space,” he wrote in a memo. “For all House Office Buildings, the Hall of the House, and House Committee Meetings, wearing of a well-fitted, medical grade, filtration face mask is required when an individual is in an interior space and other individuals are present.”
The CDC on Tuesday said that Washington had a “substantial” rate of transmission. Alexandria, a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, also reported a “substantial” rate of transmission.
The White House has ordered staff and reporters to don masks.
Mr. McCarthy had criticized the CDC guidance on Tuesday.
“Vaccines work and vaccinated Americans should not have to wear masks,” Mr. McCarthy tweeted. “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.”
Mr. McCarthy later followed up by saying the House’s new mask mandate is politically motivated.
“He‘s such a moron,” Mrs. Pelosi said when asked about Mr. McCarthy‘s tweets.
But McCarthy, asked by reporters about the insult, noted that the Senate, which is housed just on the other side of the U.S. Capitol’s rotunda, is not requiring masks.
“If she‘s so brilliant, can she tell me where the science changes in building between the House and the Senate? Can she explain to me where the CDC says only vaccinated people need to wear a mask in hot spots? Can she explain to me if D.C. is a hot spot?” Mr. McCarthy said.
“If she knows so much science, explain to me where the science changes in the rotunda,” he said.