Michael Collins, longtime chief of staff of Representative Lewis and spokesman for the House of Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), hugs after the coffin with the remains of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) is removed from the U.S. Capitol in Washington 29. July 2020.
Brendan Smialowski | Pool via Reuters
House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Issued a mandatory mask directive for the floor of the house on Wednesday.
Pelosi first revealed the new rule during a call to high-ranking Democrats, just before he announced it in the chamber of the house, a source of the call told CNBC.
Members of Congress and Congress must wear face masks throughout their stay in the chamber unless it is recognized that they are speaking, Pelosi said on the floor Wednesday night.
If you don't, it is considered a "serious decency violation," she added.
The new policy comes just a few hours after Texas Republican representative Louie Gohmert announced that it had tested positive for the corona virus.
Gohmert had reportedly tested positive before boarding Air Force One to travel to Texas with President Donald Trump. Gohmert said in a video that was later released on social media Wednesday that he had tested positive in two different Covid-19 tests in the White House.
When asked about Gohmert's diagnosis on Wednesday, Pelosi said, "I'm so sorry for him. But I'm also sorry that my members are worried because he showed up at meetings without a mask and made something of it. Hopefully now he will take care of his health and others. "
Gohmert appears to be the eleventh member of the congress to test positive. So far, this list included nine members of the House and a senator, Kentucky's Rand Paul.
Masks, like most other aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, have been heavily politicized. Republicans say significantly more often than Democrats that they never wear a mask outside their homes, as recent polls show.
Trump himself has largely refused to wear a mask and questioned its usefulness as an effective means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
But last week he seemed to strongly support the use of face masks and tweet: "Many people say that wearing a face mask is patriotic if you can't distance yourself socially. There is no one more patriotic than me, yours Favorite president! "
In her remarks in the chamber on Wednesday evening, Pelosi made it clear that members of the congress and their staff "must not enter the hall of the house without a mask". She said masks are provided through the doors of the house floor for those who don't have them.
She added, "The chairman would also like to remind members that the spokesman has the authority to instruct the sergeant on weapons to remove a member from the floor, if appropriate."
– Christina Wilkie of CNBC contributed to this report.