Democratic lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives are upset with their Republican colleagues after a member of the GOP caucus revealed he had tested positive for coronavirus but had hid the test result for more than a week from officials across the aisle.
Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Pennsylvania) released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging his diagnosis. For a period of two weeks starting in mid-May, Lewis and at least two other GOP lawmakers self-quarantined without notifying their Democratic colleagues.
Republicans took precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, even as party members were simultaneously arguing within the statehouse that conditions were safe enough in Pennsylvania to ease up on social distancing rules.
Democrats were outraged that they were left 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,” Pennsylvania House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said.
Republican spokesman Mike Straub maintains that precautionary measures were taken, and that party members adhered to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. But Straub wouldn’t disclose when nor who was informed about Lewis’s diagnosis or of lawmakers’ decisions to self-quarantine.
Rep. Brian Sims (D-Pennsylvania) shared an impassioned Facebook Live video of his reaction to finding out that he may have been exposed to the disease. Sims also revealed he was immunocompromised due to donating a kidney earlier in the year.
LIVE: I never thought I’d see a day likeThis at work!
Posted by Brian Sims on Wednesday, May 27, 2020
“Every single day of this crisis this State Government Committee in Pennsylvania,” of which Lewis is a member, “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,” Sims said in his video. “During that time period they were testing positive. They were notifying one another. And they didn’t notify us.”
Sims demanded an investigation into the matter by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and said that Republican leadership should resign from their positions for their failure to inform all lawmakers about what was happening.
“I’m in a building surrounded by members who cannot go back to their families. I need to know if it is safe for us to be back in this building,” he added.
Though not the state most heavily hit in the country in terms of coronavirus, Pennsylvania has been dealing with a high number of cases and deaths as a result of the disease. More than 73,000 positive cases have been identified in the state, and nearly 5,300 individuals have died from COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic in the state.