Rep. Ralph Norman, one of the three congressional Republicans suing Speaker Nancy Pelosi over fines for not wearing masks during a vote on the U.S. House floor, has contracted a breakthrough case of COVID-19, the second member of South Carolina’s delegation to do so.
Norman, who has said he has been fully vaccinated since February, tweeted that he began experiencing minor symptoms of COVID-19 on Thursday, tested positive for the virus that day and would quarantine for 10 days.
Representing South Carolina’s 5th District since 2017, Norman is part of a federal lawsuit against Pelosi over a mandate earlier this year that members wear masks while on the House floor.
Last week, Norman and U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Thomas Massie of Kentucky sued Pelosi, seeking a determination that their $500 fines — issued because they went maskless during a May vote — are unconstitutional and should be rescinded.
“The masking requirement was an attempt to prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, medicine, and science, despite a deep divide over these issues of opinion,” lawyers for the members wrote, arguing that masks were required “in televised areas only” in the chamber.
“It has been used to force Plaintiffs and other members of the minority party to be instruments for fostering public adherence to this ideological point of view that Plaintiffs find unacceptable,” they added.
The trio had challenged the fines in June, arguing that the mandate was out of sync with recent federal guidance on face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their appeal failed.
The May vote in question happened a week after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance noting that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”
Even after that updated CDC guidance, Dr. Brian Monahan, Congress’ attending physician, wrote that “mask requirement and other guidelines remain unchanged until all Members and floor staff are fully vaccinated.”
The mask requirement was lifted June 11 but has since been revived because of a resurgence of the coronavirus. As cases of the virus increase, the CDC has updated its recommendations to include a return to masking indoors, even for fully vaccinated individuals.
Recent analysis has shown that breakthrough cases of COVID-19, with mild or no symptoms, still remain rare, but Norman is the second South Carolina Republican this week to report one.
On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham told The Associated Press that he was improving after a handful of “pretty tough days,” suffering he said he was sure would have been worse had he not been vaccinated. He also told AP he has urged former President Donald Trump to “speak up” and urge his supporters to get the vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective but do not offer 100% protection against the virus. That means a small percentage of people who are fully vaccinated will still get COVID-19 if exposed to the virus that causes it, according to the CDC.
However, vaccinated people who have breakthrough infections are much less likely to get severely sick or die.