The Lead

Pa. Senate office in quarantine after employee tests positive for COVID-19

By: - September 8, 2020 10:23 am

Pennsylvania Senate Chambers. Source: WikiMedia Commons

*This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. on Tuesday with new information from Kate Flessner about the number of employees in quarantine. 

Pennsylvania Senate staffers who handle record keeping and administration for the 50-member chamber are quarantining this week after an employee in their office tested positive for COVID-19, the Capital-Star learned Tuesday.

The staffer from the Senate Secretary’s office who was diagnosed with COVID-19 was working in the state Capitol as recently as last week, Kate Flessner, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, confirmed in an email to the Capital-Star Tuesday. 

As a result, Senate Secretary Megan Martin and seven members of her staff are quarantining and will not be in the building on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, when senators are due to return to Harrisburg for committee meetings and floor votes after a lengthy summer recess.*

She said that Scarnati notified Democrats and Republicans in the Senate of the quarantine with the following email on Monday night:

“Today we were notified that a Senate staffer in the Senate Secretary’s office has tested positive for COVID-19. Because this individual was working in the Capitol last week, the Senate Secretary and members of her staff are quarantining and will not be in the building for Session tomorrow or Wednesday. Per the Senate COVID-19 Potential Workplace Exposure Protocol policy, any person who may have had direct contact with the individual has been notified for the purpose of taking appropriate actions.

Session will continue as planned for this week, however because the Secretary’s office will not be present, Senate Republican and Democratic Leadership staff and Legal Counsel will be working together to ensure Senate Session and Floor activity are conducted in an appropriate manner. The Secretary and her legislative team will be working from home remotely to help facilitate the process.  As a reminder, should you choose not to attend Session in person this week, you may participate in Session and/or Committee Meetings and Hearings remotely.”

This marks the at least the third publicly known case of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania’s state Capitol, and the second in the state Senate. 

Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, tested positive for COVID-19 in July, leading his offices to close for two weeks while his staff worked remotely.

News reports revealed this spring that Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, tested positive for COVID-19 while the House was in session in May, and that Republican leaders did not notify his colleagues of a confirmed COVID-19 case among their ranks.

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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.