Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor issued a rare joint statement Wednesday after NPR reported that Gorsuch refused a request by Chief Justice John Roberts to wear a mask during the current Omicron surge, forcing Sotomayor — who has diabetes and is at high risk for COVID-19 — to work remotely.

“Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us,” their statement read. “It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends.”

According to NPR’s report, which aired on Tuesday, Roberts made the request out of respect for Sotomayor, who has diabetes — a condition that puts her at high risk for COVID-19. The NPR report also said Roberts’s request to the other justices came “in some form,” implying that it might have not been a direct appeal.

The report did not say that Sotomayor asked Gorsuch to wear a mask.

According to the court’s own COVID protocols, all attorneys and reporters must take a PCR test in the morning before they enter the court, and must wear N95 or KN95 masks that cover their nose and mouth at all times, except when eating or drinking, or presenting arguments.

But there are no specific rules regarding masks for justices, all of whom are fully vaccinated and have received booster shots against COVID-19.

When the Supreme Court resumed in-person oral arguments last fall, Sotomayor was the only justice to wear a mask.

But when the court returned to the bench after its holiday break earlier this month, all eight of the justices who were present wore masks — except for Gorsuch.

Sotomayor, who sits next to Gorsuch on the bench, participated remotely from her chambers.

According to NPR’s report, she did not feel safe enough to be in close proximity to people who were unmasked.

A spokeswoman for the high court did not return a request for comment on NPR’s report. But according to CNN, Sotomayor will again participate remotely in arguments and conferences this week.

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