Republican lawmakers including Ted Cruz, Mark Meadows, Matt Gaetz, and Doug Collins have made the responsible decision to self-quarantine following exposure to a man at the Conservative Political Action Conference who later tested positive for the coronavirus — but only after the latter Gaetz and Collins made direct contact with the president. But Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, who also made contact with the coronavirus patient at CPAC, declined to self-isolate after a physician said he could return to work if he observed “proper hygiene protocols.”
While back on the Hill, rather than limit non-essential interactions, Gohmert chose instead to lead a large group of children around the Capitol. The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis, who posted a picture of the tour, stated that the group was “enormous … well over 100 kids.” CNN’s Jeremy Herb, who also took a picture of the group, reported that Gohmert said he would not shake hands with anyone in attendance.
While Gohmert — though acting on a physician’s advice — does not appear to be taking the outbreak as seriously as his fellow lawmakers, he has also struggled with scientific consensus positions in the past. In comments about climate change, he’s suggested that a warmer planet is good because it means “more plants” — though in 2009, he also denied that the Earth was warming at all, citing the contrary evidence of cold winter weather.
Though some Republican lawmakers are affording the coronavirus outbreak the seriousness it deserves, there is a significant contingent who are less concerned. At CPAC — where at least five lawmakers were exposed to the coronavirus — ex-acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said that coverage of the crisis was an attempt to “bring down” the president. Matt Gaetz, before entering self-quarantine, wore a gas mask on the House floor in an apparent effort to belittle the importance of the crisis. (Days later, a constituent of his died from the virus.) And President Trump, despite his contact with at least two people who are now in self-quarantine, has not taken a coronavirus test.