Pennsylvania Democrats Say Republicans Hid a Lawmaker’s Positive Virus Test

Pennsylvania Democrats Say Republicans Hid a Lawmaker’s Positive Virus Test


Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on Thursday accused Republicans of keeping a lawmaker’s positive coronavirus test a secret to avoid political embarrassment, even at the risk of exposing their Democratic colleagues.

A Republican House member, Andrew Lewis, confirmed on Wednesday that he received a positive test on May 20 and went into self-isolation. Mr. Lewis said that every lawmaker or staff member he was in contact with who “met the criteria for exposure” was notified.

But Democrats disputed that, saying none of their own members were alerted even though some were in proximity to Mr. Lewis in committee meetings.

In an emotional and profanity-laced Facebook video recorded in his office at the Capitol, Representative Brian K. Sims, a Democrat from Philadelphia, said Mr. Diamond has “apparently been quarantining himself for weeks” but “didn’t explain that to any of us when he was in committee, talking with us or walking up and down the aisles or bumping into us or letting us hold the door open for him.”

“How dare you put our lives at risk?” Mr. Sims said, noting that he had recently donated a kidney. “How dare you put our families at risk?”

Mr. Lewis said he had kept his positive diagnosis private “out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed.”

Representative Kevin J. Boyle, the Democratic chair of the state government committee, said he sat near Mr. Lewis about a week before his positive test, but was never informed. “The fact the Republican caucus didn’t inform the Democratic caucus is deeply reckless and immoral,” he said.

He speculated on why they did not do so: “The optics are terrible” for Republicans, he said. “Lewis and Diamond have been high-profile members of the anti-shutdown movement. They’ve been consistently telling everyone we’ve overreacted with shutdown orders and Covid-19 is not the danger it is.”

A spokesman for House Republicans, Mike Straub, said that state and federal guidelines were followed in determining whom to notify, specifically anyone in close contact with Mr. Lewis in the 48 hours before his symptoms began. “Rep. Lewis was only in the Capitol for a short period of time within that window — so tracing who he was in contact with was easily verified,” Mr. Straub said in a statement.

Representative Ryan Bizzarro, a Democrat, disputed that Mr. Lewis had quarantined himself after his diagnosis. “We have footage of him being here,” he said.

Mr. Bizzarro, who went for a test on Thursday in Harrisburg, added: “The thing that was just infuriating about this whole situation is that we found out the Republican caucus leadership knew about this and tried to bury it.”

Some Democrats have called for the House Speaker, Mike Turzai, to resign. In his video, Mr. Sims called Mr. Turzai a “scoundrel” and demanded that the state attorney general open an investigation.

A spokesman for Mr. Turzai did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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