Kentucky Republican Rand Paul made news in March, not just for being the first senator to test positive for coronavirus, but for his refusal to warn either his staff or his fellow senators that he had been exposed to the disease. Instead, Paul kept attending meetings per usual, and even swam laps in the Capitol’s gym while awaiting his test results. After publicly confirming his diagnosis, Paul, a medical doctor, was indignant at the suggestion he should have changed his behavior out of concern for spreading COVID-19 to anyone else.
Apparently, Paul’s cavalier attitude isn’t unique among his Republican colleagues. On Wednesday, state representative Andrew Lewis announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on May 20 and he is now “completely fine.” He added that “every 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.”
What Lewis’s statement leaves out is that not a single Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House was notified, even as their GOP counterparts were quietly self-isolating. In a statement, Pennsylvania House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody condemned Republicans’ withholding of the information, writing, “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. Knowing how House members and staff work closely together at the Capitol, we should have been made aware of this much sooner.”
Democrat Summer Lee tweeted, “We have colleagues who go home to their immuncompromised children, spouses, and elderly parents. That Democrats who had contact with him were not notified is not just a political stunt—this is beyond the fkn pale!”
Another Democrat, Dan Frankel, pointed out that all of this is happening as the Pennsylvania GOP is working relentlessly to roll back social-distancing guidelines. Frankel writes, “Republicans have gone to battle for the argument that personal responsibility to follow CDC guidelines alone was enough to protect the public. Now, we learn that they didn’t even attempt to protect their own members or the communities that their members return to.”
One of those Republicans working so hard to undo Pennsylvania’s efforts to fight the spread of coronavirus is Russ Diamond—who on Wednesday confirmed that he has been self-quarantining since May 21. But before he went into quarantine—the same day in fact—Diamond appeared on the floor of the state house to argue for ending Governor Tom Wolf’s emergency order, which has been in place since March. Diamond refused to wear a mask during his appearance and, like the rest of the Pennsylvania GOP, didn’t inform a single Democrat colleague that he had been exposed to the disease.
Democratic rep Brian Sims called out this hypocrisy in a video he posted to social media. Bordering on furious, Sims said, “Every single day that our gerrymandered Republican leadership has been calling us up into this building so they could pass these ridiculous bills, pretending that it was safe to be out there, they were covering up that it wasn’t safe.”