Gohmert was in close contact with lawmakers and others on Capitol Hill, including Attorney General William Barr, on Tuesday.

July 29, 2020, 12:40 PM EDT / Updated July 29, 2020, 6:53 PM EDTBy Lauren Egan, Kristen Welker, Shannon Pettypiece and Garrett Haake

WASHINGTON — Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who has refused to wear a mask, tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday shortly before he was expected to travel with President Donald Trump to Texas.

Gohmert, 66, one of the most outspokenly conservative members of Congress, said he tested positive during the routine screening at the White House prior to boarding Air Force One and blamed his infection on the fact that he had begun to wear a mask more frequently in recent days.null

News that the Texas Republican contracted the coronavirus sent lawmakers scrambling to account for Gohmert’s whereabouts in the Capitol in the days leading up to his positive test. It also reignited conversations about whether lawmakers, many of whom travel to Washington from all around the country and tend to be in vulnerable age groups, were taking appropriate precautions to prevent an outbreak on Capitol Hill.

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Gohmert attended Attorney General William Barr’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, sitting for hours in a hearing room with dozens of other lawmakers. Gohmert, along with other Republicans, was seen at times during the day without a mask.

In an interview with a local Texas news station Wednesday morning after learning he was infected, Gohmert said it was “ironic” that he tested positive “because a lot of people have made a big deal out of my not wearing a mask a whole lot, but in the last week or two I have worn a mask more than I have in the whole last four months.”

“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some germs, some of the virus on the mask and breathed it in,” he said.null

Gohmert appeared to be dialing into the interview from his Capitol Hill office, where many lawmakers and staffers were working Wednesday. It is unclear why he went back to the Hill, where social distancing can be difficult, after testing positive.

In a statement he posted to Twitter, Gohmert said he would be “very, very careful” to make sure he did not give the coronavirus to anyone and referred to it as “the Wuhan virus,” a phrase that has been associated with a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans.