Sen. Ted Cruz is no longer wearing a face mask as he walks the halls of the Capitol complex or goes to the Senate floor for debates and votes.
“At this point I’ve been vaccinated. Everybody working in the Senate has been vaccinated,” the Texas Republican told CNN, even though many staff members and reporters in the Capitol have not been vaccinated.
Cruz defended his decision to drop using the mask even after being told that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still recommending people who have been vaccinated wear masks in public.
“CDC has said in small groups, particularly with people who were vaccinated don’t need to wear masks,” he responded as he climbed into a small Capitol elevator with two aides, both of whom were wearing masks.
In fact, the current CDC guidance says because “we’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19” it’s important that “after you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions — like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.”
Vaccines are not 100% effective and the CDC and National Institutes of Health say there is no way for a fully vaccinated person to know if they are perhaps carrying an asymptomatic infection that could spread to someone else.
In the House, members and aides are required to wear masks, and lawmakers can be fined if they don’t wear them on the floor of the chamber. But the Senate has no such rules.
Cruz’s decision comes as there has been growing tension among conservative lawmakers and the CDC over its guidance for wearing masks. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, last month was in the basement of the Capitol reading from a Dr. Seuss book to make the argument that vaccinated Americans should not be pushed into wearing masks.
And Cruz in February complained to the Conservative Political Action Conference that Americans were going to be forced to wear masks for “the next 300 years.”
He added, “Not just one mask, two three, four. You can’t have too many masks. How much virtue do you want to signal? This is just dumb.”
Almost all other senators are wearing masks despite having been vaccinated many weeks ago. One exception is Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican of Kentucky, who has steadfastly refused to wear a mask through much of the pandemic, claiming he has antibodies after becoming the first US senator to contract the disease about a year ago.
When the reporter noted to Cruz that he and other members of the press corps had not been vaccinated, Cruz responded: “At this point, virtually everyone here has been vaccinated. And everyone has the opportunity.”
However, Capitol authorities just have made vaccinations available to a small group of reporters – targeting those who have covered Congress through the pandemic – but those shots are only now getting into the arms of the journalists and therefore they are not fully vaccinated.
This story has been updated with a fuller quotation from Sen. Ted Cruz.