October 22, 2020

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Virginia legislator with covid warned his church, but House colleagues say they weren’t informed

But House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) said neither Wright nor his office officially notified his fellow legislators, who’d met with him a week earlier, on Aug. 18, when the House convened for one day in a basketball arena before moving the rest of a special legislative session to an online format.

While a guest column written by Wright, 72, popped up in a local publication criticizing Democratic House leaders for operating virtually, he had been absent from online House and committee meetings since Aug. 29. He returned for the first time Monday.

Since then, Wright and House Republicans have offered no explanation for his extended absence. He made no mention of his test Monday and was not asked about it publicly.

Wright and a spokesman for House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, after The Washington Post and other news outlets obtained a copy of Mulchi’s email to the church.

Filler-Corn, who’s faced harsh Republican criticism for the decision to go virtual, welcomed Wright back Tuesday with wishes for good health — and a rebuke for keeping House members in the dark. She said in a statement that she was “incredibly disappointed” that he and GOP leaders did not disclose the positive test to the legislature.

There is no requirement that legislators disclose personal health information, but Filler-Corn suggested that Wright owed a warning to those he could have exposed.

“This lack of transparency when it comes to this highly contagious disease is incredibly troubling,” she wrote. “Every Delegate and individual present at the Siegel Center on August 18th had a right to know of Delegate Wright’s reported positive test for their safety, their family’s safety and the safety of their communities.”

A legislator since 2001, Wright is not the first lawmaker known to have tested positive for the virus during the special session. Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) tested positive in mid-August. His fellow senators, who’ve been convening in a sprawling meeting room at the Science Museum of Virginia, were immediately notified.

The novel coronavirus has a relatively long incubation period, and people infected with it have been found to spread it before they experience symptoms covid-19, the illness the virus causes.

Filler-Corn has said that meeting remotely is the best way to keep the state’s 100 delegates safe during the special session, which was called to address the pandemic’s effect on the state budget and to overhaul criminal justice in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

House Democrats resorted to procedural gymnastics to overcome GOP opposition to the rules change that has allowed the House to convene online. Republicans, some hailing from districts with poor Internet service, have complained that virtual meetings are unworkable and unnecessary for health considerations.

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