Another day, another person contracting Covid-19 after saying something really, really dumb about Covid-19 safety procedures.
Today it's the turn of Texas Republican Representative Louie Gohmert, who frequently walks around the Capitol vocally eschewing the need to wear a mask. Gohmert has now been confirmed positive for the virus after being tested before entering the White House yesterday.
After contracting the illness, you'd hope that he'd raise his hands and say, "my bad, I guess I should have worn a mask," but he has since doubled down on his dislike of this basic courtesy, telling reporters that he blames the mask itself for his infection.
In an interview with NBC affiliate KETK, Gohmert was asked why he was pushing the importance of wearing masks only when you are confirmed to have coronavirus, rather than at all times in public settings such as stores, and in any closed environment such as in an office, as recommended by scientists, health experts, and the World Health Organization.
"There are an awful lot of people that think it's a great thing to do all the time but I can't help but think that if I hadn't been wearing a mask so much in the last ten days or so, I really wonder if I would have gotten it," Gohmert, who has been seen around his offices, the House floor, and other locations only intermittently wearing a mask and maintaining social distance from others, said in response.
"But I know, moving the mask around, getting it to sit just right, I'm bound to have put some virus on the mask that I sucked in, that's most likely what's happened."
It's true it is possible you could touch something covered in the virus then rub it on the inside of your mask, but that's sort of like standing in dog poop then blaming your shoe. That's why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidance for handling your mask, including washing your hands before placing it on your face.
“It’s really ironic, because, you know, a lot of people have made a big deal out of my not wearing a mask a whole lot,” Gohmert told KETK. “But in the last week or two, I have worn a mask more than I have in the whole last four months.”
Again, this is like getting someone pregnant then remarking, "how did this happen? I wore a condom some of the time. Nice one, DUREX, you idiots," or trying to convince your partner that your gonorrhea infection was given to you by your underwear.
It wouldn't be wild to guess that him getting the infection recently might have something to do with the significant increase in cases in the US, which surpassed 150,000 deaths this week, rather than being a result of him recently wearing something that's been proven time and time again to be very effective at slowing the spread.
However, what's really troubling here is that – as he confirmed by sharing the interview on his Twitter page – he is asymptomatic, and yet advocating that people should only wear a mask to protect others when you test positive, despite himself being someone with direct experience of being a potential asymptomatic spreader. Anyone in contact with the President gets regular Covid-19 tests, but millions of people not displaying any symptoms can still have it and pass on the virus without knowing. Masks are a preventative measure that cuts that risk dramatically.
"I'm asymptomatic: I don't have any of the symptoms that are listed as part of Covid-19," he said, "but apparently I have the Wuhan virus", because why not throw in some racism while you're at it.
It's weird how you caught Covid-19 right when it's becoming much more prevalent, isn't it? Must be this damn mask.
He went on to say one more thing he really shouldn't have: "Rand Paul was just texting me that the good news is that in 10 days or so I should be fairly well immune."
So far, we do not know for certain whether people with mild Covid-19 go on to develop a sufficient immune response to fight off further infections, just as we do not know yet how long immunity in those who have developed antibodies could last. If everyone who has had the virus starts acting with the belief they are immune, it could cause significant problems down the line.
Shortly after the news came out about his positive test, an aide to Gohmert contacted Politico, alleging that the Congressman berated staff for wearing masks. "Louie requires full staff to be in the office, including three interns, so that we could be an example to America on how to open up safely," they wrote in the email. "You might want to ask how often people were berated for wearing masks."
To really top it all off, however, ABC News reports that following his confirmed positive result he decided to return to his office to inform his staff. In person.