Mexico’s most ardent anti-masker is ill with COVID-19

A Mexican politician whose steadfast refusal to wear a face mask has interfered with official events during the pandemic confirmed Monday that he is ill with COVID-19.

Gerardo Fernandez Noroña has long been known as the colorful stuntman of Mexican politics, staging lone protests and getting in heated arguments with officials.

He had reported on his social media accounts that he hadn’t been feeling well for days, but was sure that “it’s a very strong cold, or the bug.”

On Monday, however, he wrote, “Just as I feared, I tested positive for covi,” which is how many Mexicans pronounce COVID.

Still pinned to the top of his Twitter feed was a taunting post from Friday, when he tested negative. “The right-wing must be dying of rage because of this result,” he wrote.

A member of the Chamber of Deputies, Fernandez Noroña has repeatedly refused to wear a mask at official functions where it was required. In 2020, the National Electoral Institute, at which Fernandez Noroña represents the tiny Labor Party, was forced to suspend a session when he refused to put on a mask as required by the institute’s rules.

“If you want to put a gag on me, I will speak without a gag,” he said at the time. “If you want to censor me, I can’t speak with a gag on,” he said, referring to a face mask.

Fernandez Noroña is sort of a loose ally of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The president also disdains masks and has refused to recommend or require their use, but he will use them himself in places like airplanes when they are required.

But some of the president’s political allies, like Manuel Bartlett, the head of the federal electrical power company, are openly disdainful of masks.

At a news conference last week, a mask-less Bartlett ordered a reporter to take off his mask when asking a question. “With the muzzle on, I can’t hear or understand,” he told the reporter.

Mexico has recorded almost 238,500 test-confirmed COVID-19 deaths, but because the country does so little testing, even government estimates put the real toll at around 360,000.

Government officials have come in for criticism since early in the pandemic when they cast doubt on whether face masks protect against the coronavirus. Officials argued that mask requirements would violate individual liberties.

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