Pennsylvania state lawmaker rips GOP members for silence after testing positive for coronavirus

Neil Strebig, York Daily Record

A Pennsylvania state representative went on a profanity-laced tirade Wednesday against Republican House members who had tested positive for COVID-19 or came in contact with someone who had, and yet remained silent.  

State Rep. Brian Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia, released a near-12-minute Facebook video calling out GOP members who have been pushing to reopen the state and accusing them of undermining the seriousness of the novel coronavirus.  

"Every single day of this crisis, this State Government Committee in Pennsylvania has met so that their members could line up one after one after one and explain that it was safe to go back to work," Sims said in the video. "During that time period, they were testing positive. They were notifying one another. And they didn’t notify us." 

This week, coronavirus deaths exceeded 100,000 nationwide and 5,200 in Pennsylvania.  

Coronavirus updates: Pa. has more than 750 new cases Wednesday; statewide total nears 70K

In the video, Sims said Democratic leaders became aware of at least one Republican member of the state House of Representatives who tested positive for COVID-19 and remained working in the Pennsylvania Capitol for at least one week.  

Sims criticized state Rep. Russ Diamond of Lebanon County for self-quarantining for weeks without telling Democratic colleagues. Diamond has been a leading advocate for reopening the state. 

Thousands gather outside the Capitol building for a ReOpen PA rally in Harrisburg, Pa., on May 15.

"Of course, he didn't explain that to any of us when he was in committee talking with us, walking up and down the aisle, bumping into us or letting us hold the door for him, " Sims said.  

Diamond took to Twitter to respond to Sims, citing guidelines for quarantine from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   

In his Facebook Live video, Sims said, "Of course he didn't explain that to any of us when he was in committee talking with us, walking up and down the aisle, bumping into us or letting us hold the door for him, " Sims said.  

"I'm in a building surrounded by members who cannot go back to their families," Sims said. "I need to know if it is safe for us to be back in this building." 

On Wednesday, May 27, state Rep. Kevin J. Boyle, a Democrat from Philadelphia and Democratic Chair for the House State Government Committee, cited that he and his colleagues had discovered that fellow committee member Rep. Andrew Lewis, a Dauphin County Republican, tested positive for COVID-19. 

In a Facebook video Rep. Lewis shared his experience with COVID-19 noting he began filling ill on Saturday, May 16. He tested positive on Wednesday, May 20 and was last at the Capitol on May 14, he said. 

"In my mind the people that were exposed deserved a little bit of time because I have not have a public schedule and only had interactions with a few people. And I think those people deserved a little window of time to get tested and do their isolation," he said in the video. "I want to assure you throughout this whole thing I followed the isolation procedures, notified anyone I was in contact with and was in contact with the Department of Health on a daily basis."

In a letter to Attorney General Shapiro, Boyle called for a formal investigation into the incident in which several Republican leadership members including Lewis, state House Speaker Mike Turazi and House Majority Leader Brian Cutler failed to notify fellow committee and House members. 

In the video, Sims also calls for the state attorney general's office to launch an investigation on GOP members who tested positive and participated self-quarantining without notifying their Democratic colleagues.  

Neil Strebig is a journalist for the York Daily Record. He can be reached at nstrebig@ydr.com and on Twitter: @neilStrebig

This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Coronavirus: Pennsylvania lawmaker says Republicans hid positive cases