WASHINGTON – The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee said Saturday he tested positive for the coronavirus days after he sat close to another member of the panel, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who also tested positive.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said in a statement that he has the virus but, like Gohmert, has no symptoms. He is at least the 11th member of Congress known to have tested positive for the coronavirus.
It's unclear where Grijalva, 72, caught the virus and whether it was from Gohmert, a Republican who has questioned the use of masks and often walked around the Capitol without one. Grijalva went into isolation after Gohmert tested positive on Wednesday, since the two had sat close to each other at a Natural Resources hearing the day before.
“While I cannot blame anyone directly for this, this week has shown that there are some members of Congress who fail to take this crisis seriously," Grijalva said in the statement. “Numerous Republican members routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families.”
Grijalva said he was informed by the Capitol's attending physician that he had tested positive and would self-isolate in quarantine. He said he feels “fine” and hopes for a speedy recovery.
Gohmert's diagnosis prompted concerns across the Capitol, where there is no required testing and there were few requirements for masks. That day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Capitol officials set broad new mask mandates for the House side, including on the House floor and in hallways and member offices.
In the Senate, where almost all members have worn masks and office space is more spread out, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he doesn't see the need for new mandates.
On testing, Pelosi and McConnell have remained firm that there should be no special access for lawmakers as long as the general public doesn't have widespread workplace testing. They have both said that equipment and tests should instead be directed to front-line workers.
The leaders in May rejected an offer from President Donald Trump to send rapid tests to the Capitol for lawmakers. The White House tests anyone who will be in close proximity to the president, which is how Gohmert found out he had the virus. The Texas Republican was scheduled to travel with Trump to his home state that day.
Gohmert also attended a hearing with Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday, and was captured on video walking closely behind Barr without a mask on as the attorney general entered the hearing room. A Justice Department spokeswoman said Barr was tested Wednesday and the test came back negative.
At least two other lawmakers have quarantined after coming into contact with Gohmert last week — Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, who sat next to Gohmert on a Sunday flight to Washington, and Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who had dinner with Gohmert on Monday.