A Pennsylvania Democratic lawmaker joined colleagues on his side of the aisle in lambasting a Republican lawmaker for keeping them in the dark about testing positive for the coronavirus.
Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, delivered an epic Facebook Live rant on Wednesday about the exclusion, saying state House Republicans called for in-person committee meetings to argue that business sectors were safe to reopen even as they knew they had been exposed to the virus.
"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," he said. "During that time period they were testing positive. They were notifying one another. And they didn’t notify us."
"I never ever, ever knew that the Republican leadership of this state would put so many of us at risk for partisanship to cover up a lie," he said during the nearly 12-minute tirade. "And that lie is that we're all safe from COVID."
Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, said in a Facebook Live address Wednesday night, hours after he publicly announced he had tested positive, that he informed as few people as possible about contracting the coronavirus because he wanted to protect the privacy of those around him and because he was only in close quarters 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 privacy. They’ve had time to get their test and all those things."
The representative said he's not aware of anyone who was around him testing positive. After feeling ill May 16, he said he self-isolated, tested positive on May 20 then and informed health officials as well as a few people who might have been around him when he was last at the Capitol on May 14.
Those people he informed self-isolated and, in some cases, got tested with none turning up positive as far as he knows, Lewis said. He said he wore a mask when he was at the Capitol.
The lawmaker said he had a mild case and recovered quickly before waiting 10 days to announce his experience publicly.
“Out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed, I chose to keep my positive case private," he said in a statement.
The state house Democratic Caucus accused Lewis and at least some of the Republican colleagues who knew about his status of keeping colleagues in the dark.
"While we are pleased to learn 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," Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny said in a statement Wednesday night.
He said there had been multiple meetings in May in which some Republicans who might have had contact with Lewis attended without masks and they made a point of their distaste for personal protective equipment.
"This attitude shows a fundamental lack of respect for fellow lawmakers," Dermody said.
Sims said the state attorney general needs to investigate how the notification was handled. He also called on Speaker of the House Mike Turzai to resign.
Any representative who knew about Lewis' case and didn't inform colleagues "needs to be investigated by the attorney general and I think that they need to be prosecuted."
Rep. Kevin J. Boyle, D-Philadelphia, said on Twitter that the State Government Committee he chairs has met 12 times in the last two months.
"Not informing anyone there is a #Covid_19 positive member with multiple GOP members in quarantine should be criminal," he said.
Some Republicans defended Lewis and accused Democrats of being too sensitive about the matter.
Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, said on Twitter, "Lefties whine because I self-quarantined but didn't get tested after possible COVID 'contact.' Confirmed by my doc: No reason for testing, even if I could get tested without symptoms. I feel like a million bucks!"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in workplace environments "employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."
Lewis said his views on reopening the state during the pandemic have not changed. "I firmly believe it is time to safely reopen Pennsylvania," he said.
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