Democratic lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives are demanding answers after learning that one of their Republican colleagues tested positive for COVID-19, shared that information with GOP leadership, but never informed them.
On May 20, Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis learned he had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He informed the other members of his party and went into isolation.
“I can confirm every member or staff member who met the criteria for exposure was immediately contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days from their date of possible exposure,” Lewis said in a statement released Wednesday.
Two other Republican House members who came in contact with Lewis were told to self-quarantine for 14 days, but Democratic lawmakers, some of whom also had contact with Lewis or with the two other Republicans before May 20, say they first learned of the positive test result on Wednesday.
Today, we found out *from the press* that a member of the House has tested positive for COVID-19 and other members were self-quarantining. I’m shocked and upset that the Majority Party chose not to disclose this information to us. I share my thoughts on this below. #PAHouse pic.twitter.com/Uf6v4fRahO
— Rep. Jennifer O'Mara (@RepOMara) May 27, 2020
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading expert on infectious diseases on the coronavirus task force, it can take as long as two weeks after exposure to the virus for symptoms of COVID-19 to show up. During that period the infected person is capable of spreading the coronavirus. In the weeks prior to Lewis’s positive test, House lawmakers conducted in-person meetings and votes in the General Assembly in Harrisburg.
Democrats have accused House Republicans of minimizing the threat posed by the virus, complaining about members who refuse to wear masks in the chamber. Now Democrats are fuming about the disclosure that Republicans knew about Lewis’s positive test but did not inform the other party.
“Whoever knew this in the Republican leadership and did not inform the broader membership and staff, they need to resign immediately. This is outrageous and immoral,” Democratic Rep. Kevin Boyle told reporters.
House Republican spokesman Mike Straub sought to counter the perception among Democrats that they were purposely kept in the dark about Lewis’s positive test result.
“We followed data and science, implementing the guidelines from the CDC and PA Dept. of Health, in line with exactly what Gov. Wolf requires from any business that wishes to operate. Anyone who met those guidelines was notified and quarantined,” Straub said in a statement Wednesday.
Democratic Rep. Brian Sims noted in an impassioned Facebook video posted Wednesday night that Pennsylvania’s Republican-majority House has for weeks pushed for the swift easing of restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“For those of you that know, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, under our gerrymandered Republican leadership, has been perhaps the most active state legislature in the entire country,” Sims said in the video. “And during that time period, during the entire COVID-19 crisis, the state government committee has been the place where all of these f***ed-up bills to pretend that it is safe to go back to work have been going. Every single day of this crisis the state government committee 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, it was safe to go back to race car driving or dog grooming or getting your hair cut. Meanwhile we’re learning that they were testing positive. They were notifying one another and they didn’t notify us.”
SHOCKED! I never thought I’d see a day like this. I’ve never felt more disgusted with government. This is the link: https://t.co/eMqoNRbvqf
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) May 28, 2020
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