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Matt Gaetz does Matt Gaetz things for attention

There are no reported cases of coronavirus in Washington D.C. So why did Republican Matt Gaetz wear a gas mask to the House vote on a bill to combat the disease?
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, wore a gas mask to a vote on the floor of the U.S. House to address the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, wore a gas mask to a vote on the floor of the U.S. House to address the coronavirus outbreak. [ Matt Gaetz Twitter ]
Published Mar. 5, 2020
Updated Mar. 5, 2020

This just in: Matt Gaetz wants your attention. Again.

The U.S. House approved a bipartisan, $8.3 billion emergency funding bill on Wednesday to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The representative from Florida’s Panhandle wore a gas mask to the vote on the floor of the U.S. House.

Soon, photos of Gaetz wearing the gas mask appeared on Twitter.

The representative himself tweeted about, well, himself.

He also tweeted this insight before the vote:

“Coronavirus does not belong to a political party and it should not be a political tool.”

Related: Florida resident in Washington tests positive for coronavirus, DeSantis says

Gaetz told The Hill that he wore the mask for his safety.

“Look, members of Congress are human Petri dishes — we fly through the dirtiest airports, we touch everyone we meet," he said. "If anyone’s gonna get coronavirus, it’s gonna be the people on that floor so I want to be ready.”

Others did not take Gaetz’s comments seriously.

“Our public health and safety isn’t a joke but Matt Gaetz sure is,” said the official Twitter handle of the Florida Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is a former Marine and told Gaetz he wasn’t wearing the mask properly. So he helped him adjust it, according to The Hill.

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., also briefly covered Gaetz’s air holes, according to news reports.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., tweeted about #FloridaMan Gaetz’s ... shoes.

The bill’s passage marks the first major step taken by Congress to address the outbreak. The Senate could act on the legislation as soon as Thursday

The vote was 415-2. Gaetz voted in support of the bill. Two Republicans, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Ken Buck of Colorado, voted against it.

The coronavirus has just under 100,000 reported cases worldwide and 3,254 deaths.

There have been three cases of the coronavirus in Florida, including two with ties to Hillsborough County. There have been more than 80 reported cases and nine deaths across the nation. But none in the Washington D.C. area.

The presence of the virus has already begun to impact Tampa Bay.

On Tuesday, six study abroad trips that were planned for spring break were canceled by the University of South Florida. St. Petersburg College did the same with its programs. Organizers canceled the Florida State Science Fair. State officials are monitoring price gouging on items such as hand sanitizer.

Editor’s note: Gaetz’s office says he was not asked to remove the mask. This story has been updated.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times Coronavirus Guide

Q&A: What you need to know after Florida’s first positive coronavirus cases.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

For the latest news on the outbreak, go to our coronavirus page, which we are updating regularly. You also can sign up for our DayStarter newsletter to have the day’s news sent right to your inbox each morning for free.

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