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Texas Democrats defied federal mask mandate before five tested positive for COVID

State reps who left Texas for Washington D.C. to preempt GOP voting legislation were photographed on a private plane without masks, which provoked backlash on social media.

Updated: July 19, 2021 - 11:07pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Democratic state representatives fleeing Texas last week on a chartered jet to preempt action on a GOP election reform bill defied the federal mask mandate before five members of the group visiting Washington D.C. tested positive for COVID-19.

About 50 state House members flew to Washington D.C. last week. Some of the lawmakers were photographed on a private plane without masks, provoking backlash on social media.

To date, five lawmakers in the group have tested positive for COVID-19. The five were reportedly fully vaccinated. The Texas Democratic caucus hasn't released the names publicly, citing privacy concerns. State Rep. Celia Israel voluntarily disclosed that she tested positive. 

"Let this be a reminder that COVID-19 is still very much among us, with infection rates on the rise and more infectious variants spreading nationwide," Israel said in a statement. "While I have fully complied with CDC guidelines and am fully vaccinated this will not 100% prevent infection."

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer also publicly disclosed he had tested positive.

"I am fully vaccinated, and had tested negative on Friday and Saturday," he said in a statement. "I am quarantining until I test negative, and I am grateful to be only experiencing extremely mild symptoms."

Last week, Just the News interviewed some of the Texas state representatives in Washington and asked them about the backlash they received for not wearing masks on the plane from Texas. The federal mask mandate applies to charter planes as well as commercial airlines. 

"We're comfortable because we've all been vaccinated," said Democratic Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins. "I will suggest that anybody who has not been vaccinated needs to wear their mask, but I feel comfortable because I've had both my shots."

Even though the lawmakers weren't wearing masks on the chartered flight, Texas state Rep. Rhetta Bowers said she supports the federal mask mandate for transportation. 

"We're around each other working 140 days hard for our constituents, and we're all vaccinated," she said. "I feel strongly about wearing masks, as I have them right here in my hand, and I encourage everyone to get vaccinated especially with the delta variant out there."

State Rep. Donna Howard made similar comments. 

"This is something I feel is really outrageous that we are being criticized about by the same people who have been refusing to wear masks back in Texas and allowing things to spread," she said. "But the fact is that as far as I can read, we weren't violating anything. We're all fully vaccinated."

Skeptical that mainstream media coverage will reflect grassroots disgust at the perceived hypocrisy of the Texas Democrats, Trump 2020 campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh tweeted:

"So we can expect the story of *five* Texas Democrats testing positive for Covid - after flying maskless on a private jet and meeting with every Democrat in Washington - to lead all newscasts for the next week right?

Try to imagine the news coverage if these were Republicans."