Pennsylvania House Democrats are livid GOP colleagues hid COVID-19 infections from them

Peter Weber

Democrats in the Pennsylvania state House learned from a reporter on Wednesday that at least one of their Republican colleagues had tested positive for COVID-19 a week earlier. State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R) stepped forward.

Lewis said he had "immediately" informed House leadership of his positive test on May 20, but kept quiet "out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed." Rep. Russ Diamond (R) and Rep. Frank Ryan (R) subsequently said they were self-quarantining after coming in contact with an infected person.

House Democrats accused Republicans of covering up the infections to bolster their claims that COVID-19 isn't a significant risk. "It is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge," House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said Wednesday, adding that "a vocal few" of his GOP colleagues "have attempted to make a virtue out of not wearing a mask when in close proximity to others."

"I have never been this livid: The Republican leadership risked the lives of our staff" and "other members," said Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D). Rep. Brian Sims (D) expressed his ire at GOP colleagues in a series of short videos, most of which contain NSFW language.

Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R), said "the health and privacy of a member" is "protected by HIPAA law — so the only person who was at liberty to announce their positive test is the member." He insisted that House Republicans "followed the data and science" and "notified and quarantined" anyone who met guidelines from the CDC and state health department. Democrats noted pointedly that none of them had been contacted.

"Some of our colleagues sat in close proximity to this member during committee meetings," tweeted Rep. Leanne Krueger (D). "The Republican contact tracing program ignored them."

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