Three of the Texas Democrat House representatives who left Austin last week to avoid the vote on a proposed elections bill have tested positive for COVID-19, with the news drawing criticism from conservatives who pointed out some of the lawmakers were photographed traveling on a plane to Washington, D.C., without wearing face masks.
One of the lawmakers learned about the positive test late Friday evening, while the other two learned their test results Saturday, reports The Austin-American Statesman, quoting Texas House Democratic Caucus leaders.
The White House issued a statement Saturday, claiming Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff were not at risk for infection, because they "were not in close contact" with the officials that have tested positive.
They also claimed vaccination made them invincible to contracting the virus, White House senior adviser and chief spokesperson Symone Sanders' statement read:
"On Tuesday, July 13th, Vice President Harris met with members of the Texas state legislature who are temporarily in Washington, D.C. Earlier today, it was brought to our attention that two of the members at that meeting tested positive for COVID-19. Based on the timeline of these positive tests, it was determined the vice president and her staff present at the meeting were not at risk of exposure because they were not in close contact with those who tested positive and therefore do not need to be tested or quarantined. The vice president and her staff are fully vaccinated."
The caucus said the first person testing positive is not showing symptoms, but one of the two who learned the diagnosis on Saturday is mildly ill. All of the almost 60 House members who left Texas have tested themselves, and the three who have tested positive will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
Party officials did not identify the lawmakers who tested positive. They had all tested positive through the use of rapid tests and will each receive a PCR coronavirus test, and then will be tested after their isolation period, according to a memo the newspaper obtained. All three of the lawmakers have reportedly gotten their coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, the members, who arrived on Monday in D.C have been mostly seen without masks while holding meetings around the city and visiting with key Democrat national leaders.
"The House Democratic Caucus is following all CDC guidance and protocols," Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement. "This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions. We are in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance. Our caucus will follow all recommendations from public health experts as we continue our work."
Rep. Donna Howard of Austin, who is a former critical care nurse said the lawmakers have been following the CDC's guidelines on masking, including that fully-vaccinated people don't need to wear masks, and said they are continuing to follow public health guidelines after the three representatives tested positive.
Meanwhile, some critics were pointing out how the lawmakers weren't wearing masks, including Eddie Scarry, a commentary writer for The Federalist, who tweeted that the photo of them on a plane without wearing their masks "had me worried about how many people they might infect. I don't know why they were so careless."
Fox News, meanwhile, noted that some of the Democrats who had left Austin had also strongly spoken out when Texas' mask mandate was lifted.
"No more masks or restrictions, but Texas has the worst uninsured rate in the country, a growing physician shortage, and leads the nation in rural hospital closures," Texas State Rep. John Bucy III tweeted earlier this year. Further, last August, state Rep. Chris Turner, a Democrat who is in Washington, slammed then-president Donald Trump and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick for their stances on COVID.
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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