State Sen. Anthony Williams tests positive for COVID-19

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, discusses a safe-injection site proposed for the city's Kensington neighborhood (Philadelphia Tribune photo, reproduced by permission)

This post was updated at 5:50 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14 with additional comments from the Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. 

State Sen. Anthony Williams, the second-most powerful Democrat in Pennsylvania’s state Senate, has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a statement Tuesday afternoon

Williams, of Philadelphia, said he is following state and federal guidelines that call on COVID-19 patients to isolate for two weeks after a diagnosis. But he said he will continue to work remotely to serve Pennsylvania’s eighth senate district, which includes parts of West Philadelphia and Delaware County. 

His offices in Harrisburg and Philadelphia will be closed for two weeks while his staff work from home, he said. 

Senate Democratic spokeswoman Brittany Crampsie said Williams developed symptoms a week ago, and notified Senate leaders of his diagnosis immediately after he received his positive test result Tuesday afternoon. 

She said Williams was last in the Capitol building on June 30, when he appeared alongside Senate minority leader Jay Costa, Allegheny, and Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia, at a press conference to discuss police reform legislation.

Photos from the event show Williams standing in close proximity to Hughes and Costa. All three men wore masks when they were not addressing reporters from a lectern.

Crampsie did not immediately respond to questions asking whether Costa and Hughes would self-quarantine, and a spokesman for Hughes declined to comment.

The Senate’s official COVID-19 workplace policy calls on employees to stay at home and quarantine for 14 days following exposure to a COVID-19 patient, who is presumed to be contagious for up to two weeks before their symptoms set in.

Those guidelines would require anyone who had contact with Williams at the June 30 conference would be required to isolate. But exactly two weeks elapsed since the press conference, and it’s unclear if it was Williams’ most recent interaction with his Senate colleagues.

Senate Democrats have largely worked remotely during the pandemic, attending committee hearings, floor votes and other session activity via video conference.

But Senate Republicans have in recent weeks almost universally reported to work in-person in Harrisburg.

A spokeswoman for the Republican caucus declined to comment on Williams’ case, and referred a reporter to the Senate’s COVID-19 response policy.

Williams’ diagnosis marks the second publicly known case of COVID-19 among Pennsylvania state lawmakers, and the first since the Capitol building reopened to the public in mid-June. 

State Rep. Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, tested positive for the coronavirus in May, leading three other House lawmakers to quarantine after they had close contact with him. 

But Williams’ case is also his office’s second brush with the disease. His legislative director Kyle Miller was tested for the coronavirus in March, shortly after the state reported its first cases of COVID-19. Miller’s test came back negative.

Williams’ Senate district is among those that have been hit hardest by COVID-19, with Philadelphia accounting for 23,128 cases and Delaware County logging 7,606 since March, state and local health data show.