Republicans who control the state Senate ignored requests for comment from the Capital-Star and other news organizations on Monday, even as another lawmaker who attended a hearing in Gettysburg last week tested positive for COVID-19.
State Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, announced on Facebook Monday that she had tested positive for the virus, PennLive reported. She is the second lawmaker to test positive, after it was revealed that the Nov. 25 event’s organizer, Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, had to leave a West Wing meeting with President Donald Trump after being told he had tested positive hours after that hearing concluded.
“I am grateful that my symptoms are minor,” Ward’s post stated, according to PennLive. “I am adhering to the Senate’s COVID-19 Mitigation Policy and my last interaction with the public was on Wednesday, November 25, during which time I wore a mask. I felt it was appropriate to share this information publicly.”
Ward was seated two seats away from Mastriano, separated only by incoming Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, during a four hour-plus session on alleged voting irregularities on Election Day.
Mastriano, who has been one of the most high-profile critics of the Wolf administration’s pandemic management policies, could be seen not wearing a mask as he conferred with aides and Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman David Argall, R-Schuylkill.
Neither Argall, nor a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, whose office administers the Senate, returned messages Monday requesting comment on how the caucus was handling the apparent outbreak. A spokesman for Mastriano also did not return a request for comment.
Nate Wardle, a spokesman for the state Health Department, was sharply critical of the lack of masks.
“It’s disappointing and disgraceful for elected officials and their staff and supporters to blatantly disregard the orders in place, especially while in a public building or public event, putting themselves, their fellow lawmakers, their staffs and journalists covering an event at risk, especially when we have seen the consequences of not wearing a mask: members of the Trump campaign, Trump Administration and the Pennsylvania General Assembly have contracted, and continue to contract COVID,” Wardle told PennLive.
On Monday, the Health Department announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations had exceeded peak pandemic highs. So far, more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians have died of the virus.
In a Tweet, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, wished Republicans a speedy recovery, and said he hoped the illness would change Mastriano’s mind about not wearing masks.
Senator Mastriano’s positive test after last week’s packed Senate Republican policy hearing inside the Wyndham in Gettysburg is a stark reminder that this virus is very real, very contagious, and we must heed the advice of medical professionals. ⬇️
— Senator Jay Costa (@Senatorcosta) November 30, 2020