Pennsylvania House Democrats are in an uproar after finding out that state Rep. Andrew Lewis (R) only told the Republican caucus about his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
No members of Republican leadership filled them in either.
Lewis announced on Wednesday that he had made a full recovery from a mild case of the novel coronavirus.
“I immediately began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department,” he said in a Facebook post. “My last day in the Capitol was Thursday, May 14.”
He said that every staffer and lawmaker who had possibly been exposed was informed and told to self-isolate for two weeks.
Democrats say that was not the case.
“That Democrats who had contact with him were not notified is not just a political stunt – this is beyond the fkn pale!” wrote Rep. Summer Lee (D) on Twitter. She said that some of Lewis’ Republican colleagues refused to wear masks on the floor for the week between when the GOP caucus found out and the Democrats did.
“From day one we had Republican colleagues unapologetically trivializing and politicizing this pandemic,” she added. “They have shown a callous disregard for the lives of people in my community.”
Frank Dermody, the House Minority Leader, confirmed in a Wednesday night statement that Republicans never shared Lewis’ diagnosis with him, and that he learned of it from a media report.
“In the last two weeks alone, there were six days of voting session here at the Capitol and more than 15 separate meetings of House committees voting on dozens of bills,” he said. “For those members who journeyed to the Capitol in person, each of these meetings raises the risk of possible exposure.”
He, like Lee, added that some Republican members have “attempted to make a virtue out of not wearing a mask,” further increasing the risk that lawmakers were exposed to the virus.
One lawmaker, Rep. Brian Sims (D), revealed publicly for the first time that he had secretly donated a kidney in January to a patient dying of renal failure. That puts him at particularly high risk of contracting coronavirus.
“Now, months later, in the middle of a global pandemic, I’ve discovered that my Republican colleagues exposed me, and my Democratic colleagues to Covid-19!” he tweeted. “They covered that information up because they were simultaneously arguing that the risk was low, or non-existent. They lied.”
Sims is now calling for an investigation into Republican leadership by the state Attorney General, as well as the resignation of House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) and any other members of Republican leadership who knew about the diagnosis and did not share the information.
Turzai did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment.
Lewis himself posted a video to Facebook Wednesday evening.
He said he only interacted with a “handful” of people that he could’ve spread the virus to, and said that the capitol was a “ghost town” when he was there in person.
He cited HIPPA and privacy laws for the people he interacted with as rationale for why he didn’t make a public announcement earlier.
His explanation did not suffice for his Democratic colleagues.
Rep. Kevin Boyle (D), chairman of the State Government Committee, said on Twitter that his committee has met 12 times in the past two months in a small meeting room adjacent to the House floor. He wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro asking for an investigation into any ethical or criminal laws Republicans may have broken with their reticence.
“Not informing anyone there is a Covid-19 positive member with multiple GOP members in quarantine should be criminal,” he said flatly.