Franklin Co. lawmaker Schemel quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19

    Members of the Pennsylvania House applaud newly elected Speaker Bryan Cutler on June 22, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

    (*This developing story will be updated)

    House session was cancelled today after a Republican state House member from south-central Pennsylvania tested positive for COVID-19.

    State Rep. Paul Schemel, R-Franklin (Pa. House photo)

    In a statement released Thursday morning, Rep. Frank Schemel, R-Franklin, said he began experiencing mild symptoms on Wednesday, took a test on Thursday, and received a positive result on Thursday morning. He then began to voluntarily self-quarantine.

    “Though I was in the Capitol on Tuesday, Sept. 29, I was experiencing no symptoms. I was not in the Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 30, when I began experiencing symptoms. Upon experiencing symptoms on Wednesday, I began to self-quarantine,” Shemel said in his statement. 

    “As soon as I received a positive test result on Thursday, I informed the appropriate House offices. I am following the advice of medical professionals and the protocols of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to ensure the safety of my family, staff, and fellow members,” the statement reads.

    The House has now begun contact tracing efforts. On Tuesday, Schemel was present in a committee hearing with other lawmakers.

    Earlier this month, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati’s, R-Jefferson, announced that Capitol tours had been temporarily suspended while guides and security guards quarantined due to potential COVID-19 exposure, the Capital-Star previously reported.

    This is the second positive COVID-19 case in the House, after Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin. He tested positive in May, and two more Republican lawmaker quarantined due to potential exposure.

    At the time, the fall out from the House’s opaque response to the diagnosis created a partisan firestorm. Since, the chamber has revised its pandemic policies to increase transparency and mandate mask wearing — though some lawmakers still flout the rule.

    The Capitol reopens Monday, and visitors must wear masks. Will House lawmakers?

    The cancelled day also delays a vote on a controversial election bill House Republicans advanced Wednesday and planned to pass Thursday.

    In a statement, House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, called news of another COVID-19 case in the lower chamber “disheartening,” and said contract tracing was underway to determine who might have been exposed.

    “This is yet another reminder that the virus is not going away and all of us need to keep following the simple steps such as washing hands, watching our distance from others, wearing masks and staying alert,” Dermody said.

    Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso contributed to this story.

    John L. Micek
    A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press