As the brief special session of the Colorado General Assembly got underway yesterday, the presence of a Republican legislative staffer who had posted to social media on November 24 saying “I have COVID” on the House floor, improperly wearing her mask to boot, set off a round of recriminations that earned disproportionate media coverage relative to the actual purpose of the session–which is economic relief for Coloradans to offset federal inaction. Denver7 reported on the controversy:
A Colorado Republican staffer who recently tested positive for coronavirus attended a session on the state House floor Monday morning, the first day of a special legislative session for lawmakers to provide pandemic-related aid, according to House Speaker K.C. Becker, D-Boulder.
Becker called the staffer’s actions a “reckless breach of the House’s safety protocols, and it will not be tolerated,” but Republican leaders disputed Becker’s claims, saying the staffer tested positive on Nov. 17 and has since been cleared to return to work…
“The statement that this individual tested positive last week is in error, after consulting with the Aide and finding that the test was performed on November 17th and cleared to return to work in person on the 24th, there should be minimal concern about their condition,” McKean said.
Apparently the staffer in question got a doctor’s note saying that she was clear to return to work, and her Facebook post saying “I have COVID” in the present tense referred to an original positive test on the 17th of November. That’s well and good, but policy at the state capitol at this dangerous time of rapid and uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 is more strict than simply getting a doctor’s note:
Becker said the staffer was sent home and will not be allowed back at the Capitol until she tests negative. [Pols emphasis]
Wait a minute, you ask–the staffer hasn’t tested negative? Colorado Public Radio confirms the answer is no:
In another Facebook post on Monday the staffer wrote, “I took [my doctor’s] medical, scientific advice, that those who have had covid recently should not retest to confirm they are clear because they will get a positive test.”
…But Democrats say the staffer violated procedures by failing to show proof of a negative test to be allowed inside the Capitol building [Pols emphasis] and did not properly wear a mask at times on the House floor.
Full stop. Negative COVID-19 test results are required for a growing number of privileges these days including international air travel. Although many COVID-19 patients return to work once recovered without being retested, certainly any organization is justified in requiring a negative test result from recently COVID-positive employees to return to the building. It’s our understanding that free COVID-19 testing is available literally across the street from the Capitol in the Legislative Services Building for this purpose.
Taken together with the flouting of the statewide indoor mask mandate by Republican lawmakers including Rep. Larry Liston wearing his mask on his head (photo above right) and many others not wearing one at all, this staffer’s irresponsibility and the defense of it by Republican leadership is just more dangerous disregard for the safety of others from a party that has made such behavior a campaign plank. The state capitol should have higher standards for disease prevention than the bare minimum given the building’s necessary openness to people from all walks of life and medical circumstances. From Republican lawmakers laughing off masks they’re required to wear to known COVID-19 positive GOP staffers lounging at half-mask on the floor, their conduct is a grave insult to the thousands of Coloradans who have died of this disease.
Instead of making excuses for behavior even little kids know is bad, just do better.