A congressman from Florida couldn't mask his concern for the coronavirus outbreak.
Rep. Matt Gaetz wore a gas mask to Wednesday's House vote on the $8.3 billion bill for emergency funding to help tackle the issue. The measure passed, 415-2.
“If anyone is going to get coronavirus, it's going to be the people on this floor,” Gaetz told reporters afterward, still wearing the gas mask.
Asked why he was wearing the mask, Gaetz said: “Look, members of Congress are human petri dishes. We fly through the dirtiest airports. We touch everyone we meet.”
He also tweetedout a picture of himself reviewing a piece of paper while wearing the headgear ahead of the vote.
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Gaetz's decision wasn't in line with the administration's recommendations. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted last week: “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who's heading up the president's task force on the coronavirus, has also cautioned Americans not to wear masks if they're not sick. Gaetz was among the Republican lawmakers whom Pence briefed on the virus before the vote.
It's not clear how effective his protection was. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., informed Gaetz he wasn't wearing the headgear properly and helped him fix it in what Gallego called a moment of “bipartisanship.”
Gaetz noted that Gallego knew the proper way to wear it because “he's a Marine.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., wasn't as considerate. “Mitchell did cover the air intake hole momentarily,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz said he was allowed to wear the mask on the floor because “there are provisions in the House rules that permit medically necessary headgear.” Asked whether he planned to wear it regularly, he said, “Great question.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., didn't sound amused when she heard about the stunt.
“I didn't even know that he was doing that, but they advised us not to wear masks,” she said.