Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), in the Senate Subway on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz has stopped wearing a mask while at the Capitol, according to a CNN report on Thursday.

Defending his decision, the Texas Republican told CNN that since he got the COVID-19 vaccine and “everybody working in the Senate” has also received their shots, he no longer chooses to don a face-covering. However, not all congressional staff members, reporters and even senators have been fully vaccinated.

Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinated individuals to continue mask-wearing in public as the coronavirus pandemic is not over, and scientists and public health experts are still learning the long-term effects of the shots. Safety precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing remain necessary at this time, especially amid rising cases and an ongoing vaccine rollout in the US and the rest of the world.

Reporters pressed Cruz on this point, yet he pushed back, claiming: “CDC has said in small groups, particularly with people who were vaccinated don’t need to wear masks,” per CNN. During those comments, a maskless Cruz entered an elevator on the Hill, along with two of his aides who were wearing masks.

The CDC released guidance earlier this month that it is considered low risk for fully-vaccinated people to convene indoors without masks, but did not specify how many people. Hundreds of people, many of whom are not fully vaccinated, work in the Congress.

This is not the first time that Cruz has publicly flouted public health guidelines on Capitol Hill during the pandemic. Last month at a news conference, Cruz, after being asked to put a mask on, told a reporter he was “welcome to step away if you like.”

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Cruz joins fellow Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has refused to wear a mask at the Capitol, declaring he has full immunity from the virus since he already contracted it last March. Scientists and public health experts have not yet determined the extent of immunity achieved after getting the virus, nor how long it lasts. Paul has frequently clashed with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during hearings on the issue.

The Senate does not mandate mask-wearing, unlike the House, which implemented new mask requirements after at least four members of Congress tested positive in the wake of the Capitol riot on January 6.

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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