Pennsylvania Democrats are furious after a Republican House lawmaker announced he’d tested positive for coronavirus over a week ago but didn’t tell them.
State representative Andrew Lewis, a 33-year-old who represents a district partially encompassing the capital Harrisburg, revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon. Lewis said his positive test came back on May 20 and that “every [legislative] member or staff member who met the criteria for exposure was immediately contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days from their date of possible exposure.”
Lewis cited privacy concerns for not disclosing his diagnosis. “Out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed, I chose to keep my positive case private,” Lewis continued. “Now that I have fully recovered and completed the quarantine as required by the Department of Health, I feel now is the appropriate time to share this information with the public and my constituents.”
In a Facebook live stream, Lewis said he wasn’t aware of anyone else who had tested positive, and claimed that he “only interacted with a couple people.” Lewis was last in the state Capitol on May 14, four days prior to receiving his COVID-19 test result.
His Democratic colleagues, however, were incensed. Rep. Summer Lee, a freshman lawmaker from the Pittsburgh area, tweeted that the fact that Democrats weren’t notified of Lewis’ diagnosis was “beyond the [fucking] pale.”
"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," an emotional Sims said. "And that lie is that we're all safe from COVID."
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania House Republicans defended the decision on Wednesday. “We followed data and science, implementing the guidelines from the CDC and PA Dept of Health, in line with exactly what Gov. [Tom] Wolf requires from any business that wishes to operate," Mike Straub told NBC-10 in Philadelphia. "Anyone who met those guidelines was notified and quarantined.”
On Thursday, U.S. senator and former vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine announced that both he and his wife had tested positive for antibodies to coronavirus. Including Kaine, at least ten U.S. senators and 40 U.S. House lawmakers have spent time in quarantine since the pandemic began, according to NPR. And in March, the entire Georgia legislature was urged to self-quarantine after a state senator tested positive.
Cover: State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin County, holds her cell phone up so Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Philadelphia, can see the opening prayer as Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon County and Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin County, bow their heads during a legislative session, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Joe Hermitt/The Patriot-News via AP)