Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives were outraged Wednesday after learning one of their Republican colleagues had tested positive for the coronavirus and they weren’t notified of the result or informed that he was self-isolating for a week.
State Rep. Andrew Lewis (R) said in a Facebook post that he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 20 and immediately began self-isolating after contacting the chamber’s human resources department. He said the body followed guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to determine exactly who I may have been in contact with, and who I may have possibly exposed to the virus.” He said he was last in the Capitol on May 14.
“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 wrote. “Out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed, I chose to keep my positive case private.”
A spokesman for House Republicans, Mike Straub, told Penn Live the chamber “followed data and science” and notified anyone who met CDC and state health guidelines.
But state Democrats accused Republicans, who hold a majority in the House, of withholding the information from the full chamber as the GOP publicly touted a broad reopening of the state. Many noted they only learned of Lewis’ results from the media.
“These same Members were among those leading the daily shouts to reopen the state,” Rep. Brian Sims (D) tweeted of his Republican colleagues. “They yelled and screamed about it being safe for others across the state to gather, while they were testing positive and notifying each other, but none of the Democrats that work with them!”
Sims later called on House Speaker Mike Turzai and other Republican leaders who withheld any information to resign and said the case should be investigated by the state attorney general.
Other Democrats were equally frustrated by the lack of communication.
“I am livid,” state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D) told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “They were derelict in their duty when they did not alert us to this immediately. … They put our health at risk, they put our families at risk, and Speaker Turzai should resign, period.”
Another Republican, state Rep. Russ Diamond, said Wednesday that he was contacted on May 21 and asked to self-quarantine but has not developed any symptoms or been tested for the virus. He said he plans to return to the statehouse on Thursday after a 14-day quarantine and defended GOP efforts to reopen the economy.
“I’m angry that even though my self-quarantine was not required, but only recommended under CDC guidelines, that there are plenty of people in Pennsylvania who would wag their fingers at me and try to shame me for simply going about my life peacefully,” Diamond wrote.
Diamond has vocally opposed wearing masks in public despite federal health recommendations.
More than 1.6 million Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus. The U.S. passed a bleak milestone on Wednesday, recording 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
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