A Pennsylvania Democratic legislator joined colleagues on his side at the time as he paralyzed a Republican legislator to keep them in the dark about testing positive for coronavirus.
Rope. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, delivered an epic Facebook Live rant on Wednesday about the exclusion, saying that state House Republicans called for personal committee meetings to claim that the business sectors were safe to reopen even though they knew they had been exposed to the virus.
“Every day of this crisis, this Pennsylvania state government committee met so that their members could line up one by one and declare it safe to return to work,”
“I never knew, ever, that the Republican leadership in this state would put so many of us in the risk zone for partisans to cover up a lie,” he said during the nearly 12-minute tirade. “And the lie is that we are all safe from COVID.”
Rope. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, said in a Facebook Live address Wednesday night, hours after he publicly announced that he had tested positive, that he informed as few people as possible about getting the coronavirus because he wanted to protect the privacy of those around him him and because he was only in close contact with a handful of house colleagues.
“It’s mostly a ghost town here,” he said of the state Capitol in Harrisburg. “I only interacted with a couple of people. I did what I needed to do to protect their integrity. They’ve had time to test and all those things.”
The representative said he is not aware that anyone around him tested positive. After feeling ill on May 16, he said he self-insulated, tested positive on May 20, and informed health officials as well as a few people who may have been around him when he was last at the Capitol on May 14.
The people he informed about were self-insulated and in some cases were tested without being positive as far as he knows, Lewis said. He said he wore a mask when he was at the Capitol.
The legislator said he had a mild case and recovered quickly before turning ten days to announce his experience publicly.
“Out of respect for my family, and those I may have exposed, I chose to keep my positive case private,” he said in a statement.
The number of people who have died in the United States as a result of the virus crossed the 100,000 mark on Wednesday, including over 5,200 deaths in Pennsylvania.
The State House Democratic Caucus accused Lewis and at least some of the Republican colleagues who knew of his status of keeping colleagues in the dark.
“While we are happy to know that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge,” said Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny in a statement Wednesday night.
He said there had been several meetings in May where some Republicans who may have had contact with Lewis attended without masks and made a point of their dissatisfaction with personal protective equipment.
“This attitude shows a fundamental lack of respect for other legislators,” Dermody said.
Sims said that the state attorney must investigate how the case was handled. He also called on House Speaker Mike Turzai to step down.
Any representative who knew of Lewis’s case and uninformed colleagues “must be investigated by the Attorney General and I believe they must be prosecuted.”
Rope. Kevin J. Boyle, D-Philadelphia, so on Twitter that the State Government Committee he chaired has met 12 times in the past two months.
“Not informing anyone that there is a #Covid_19 positive member with several GOP quarantined members should be criminal,” he said.
Some Republicans defended Lewis, accusing Democrats of being too sensitive to the issue.
Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, said further Twitter, “Lefties whine because I myself quarantined but was not tested for possible COVID contact.” Confirmed by my doctor: No need to test, although I could be tested without symptoms. I feel like a million dollars! “
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that workplace environments “employers should inform other employees about their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the American with Disabilities (ADA).”
Lewis said his views on the reopening of the state during the pandemic have not changed. “I definitely think it’s time to reopen Pennsylvania,” he said.