Slate Belt Rep. Doyle Heffley says he’s tested positive for COVD-19

By: - November 24, 2020 11:42 am

The Pennsylvania House (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

The sixth Pennsylvania state lawmaker, and third in the past seven days, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon, posted on Facebook Monday that he and two family members tested positive for coronavirus and were experiencing unspecified symptoms.

“Please know that my family and I are taking all precautions and safety measures to ensure we do not spread this virus,” Heffley told the paper.

He added he’s been in self-quarantine since Saturday, Nov. 21. The day before, on Friday, the House was in session, finishing the state’s budget. 

Heffley was in the Capitol last week, Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster said. Heffley informed House leadership of his diagnosis on Monday night, and everyone who was in close contact with him has been notified, Straub added.

It is unclear if Heffley’s case is related to at least one presumed positive COVID-19 case in the Capitol on Friday that led leadership to close off the House floor, send members home, and pass the state budget by remote votes.

Heffley is the second Republican to test positive in the last week, after Rep. Jim Gregory, R-Blair, announced he tested positive Friday morning.

House Minority Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, also announced that he tested positive last week.

Both Republicans announced their positive tests on Facebook. Democrats have argued that the use of a constituent-centered social media channel to reveal a diagnosis means their members only learn indirectly of positive cases.

“Choosing to identify via social media is often the fastest way to make any personal information public, so that is why the members in both cases utilized their legislative social media for this purpose,” Straub said.

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

Democrats are particularly sensitive after a Republican lawmaker tested positive for COVID and recovered before informing his colleagues in both parties via press release this spring. The resulting firestorm led to a rewrite of the House’s pandemic policies.

The rule “strongly recommends that Members publicly self-disclose their probable or confirmed case.”

The rules also require masks, but lawmakers can provide a medical note to be exempt from the policy.

Still, more than half of Republican lawmakers can often be seen in committee meetings or on the House Floor without masks. That led one Democrat to file a Department of Health workplace safety complaint last week.

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.