Pennsylvania Dems Call for Investigation After State GOPers Cover Up Positive COVID Test

Image of Rep. Brian Sims via screengrab

By Jeff Taylor

May 28, 2020

“Whoever knew this in the Republican leadership and did not inform the broader membership and staff, they need to resign immediately.”

Democratic lawmakers in Pennsylvania are expressing shock and outrage after learning a Republican state House member’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis was kept hidden from them for days, putting their health at risk for political gain.

Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis released a statement Wednesday announcing he had tested positive for the illness on May 20, two days after he got tested for it, and a full week before he decided to go public with the information. 

Lewis, who reported experiencing mild symptoms, said he “began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department,” and that his last day in the Capitol was May 14. He added that he informed those who he had been in contact with that they needed to self-isolate as well. 

“Out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed, I chose to keep my positive case private,” he added. 

Rep. Russ Diamond, a Republican, confirmed on Twitter that he was contacted and told to self-quarantine, which he reports he did. However, he did not get tested, saying he didn’t have symptoms. 

It is possible to have COVID-19 and be asymptomatic but contagious. 

Rep. Dan B. Frankel said in a statement the Democratic caucus learned that a total of four GOP members were asked to self-quarantine. Frankel charged lawmakers on the other side of the aisle with making “a litany of attempts to degrade public health protections while Republican members were personally flouting the rules by refusing to wear masks to protect other members and scheduling meetings in tiny rooms with members packed together.”

“All the while, some Republican members knew that their own membership had been exposed to Covid-19, and they chose to keep that information secret,” he said, adding that their actions amounted to “a total abdication of their responsibility to act as leaders during this confusing time.”

“The virus doesn’t care about someone’s ideology,” he noted. “The virus doesn’t care if you believe in it.”

Both Lewis and Diamond have pushed for the state to reopen more quickly, with the latter having appeared before a House committee, without a mask, to argue for his resolution to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration the morning of May 21. That afternoon, he was informed that he had come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

“Whoever knew this in the Republican leadership and did not inform the broader membership and staff, they need to resign immediately,” said Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat who chairs a House committee upon which both Diamond and Lewis sit. “This is outrageous and immoral.”

Boyle has asked Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate the situation.

Fellow Democrat Rep. Brian Sims also called for an investigation, as well as calling on House Speaker Mike Turzai—and any other member of Republican leadership who knew of a positive COVID-19 test among its members but did not disclose that information to Democrats—to resign. 

Sims expressed his outrage in a fiery, expletive-filled Facebook livestream in which he noted there were legislators with vulnerable family members, including a member with an immunocompromised wife, who were left in the dark and potentially put at risk.

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle tweeted his support of calls for Turzai’s resignation, which have also come from Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

Rep. Jennifer O’Mara said she and her colleagues only learned of the situation due to a reporter telling them of the positive test and that some Republicans were self-isolating. 

Over 100,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including over 5,000 in Pennsylvania.




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