As coronavirus-related deaths pass 150,000 in the U.S., conservatives continue to share troubling talking points about the efficacy of wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning. During an interview later in the day, he speculated on the possibility that wearing a mask actually resulted in him contracting the virus. 

“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping the mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some germs, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in," in an interview with the American Independent. “I got it. We’ll see what happens from here.”

Rep. Gohmert has historically pushed back against masks, as the Daily Beast points out, and previously refused to wear one while in the Capitol. According to Politico, he also entered Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing maskless with Attorney General William Barr. As a Texas representative, Gohmert comes from a state with a distressing number of cases and rising deaths, following premature efforts to reopen by Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Despite having contracted the virus, reports state that Gohmert returned to his office to tell his staff the news in person. A tip from a Gohmert aide to Politico suggests that the representative has required his staff to be an “example to America on how to open up safely” and allegedly berates them for wearing masks. 

“I don’t have any of the symptoms that are listed as part of COVID-19, but apparently I have the Wuhan virus,” Gohmert said in a Twitter statement on Wednesday.

It’s not impossible that, as Gohmert suggests in his statement, he contracted the virus by touching his face to adjust a mask. However, given his history of not wearing masks and the fact that scientists now report that COVID-19 is a primarily airborne virus, it’s less than likely. Moreover, these comments are packed with false implications that people are not any less safe wearing masks. The CDC and scientists across the globe agree that wearing masks greatly reduces the spread of the virus, and this is not a controversial political issue in other countries dealing with the pandemic. 

It’s depressing to see politicians, even when they contract the virus, continue to minimize wearing masks for political gain, instead of doing everything they can to make sure 150,000 more Americans don’t die.

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