3 Texas Dems test positive for coronavirus while in D.C.

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Three Texas House Democrats who fled the state have tested positive for coronavirus while in Washington, D.C., the Texas House Democratic Caucus said in a statement on Saturday.

Over 50 House Democrats from the state left on Monday to break quorum in the chamber. In doing so, they prevented Republicans from advancing proposals to change the state’s election laws, which include empowering poll watchers in the state and proposing new criminal and civil penalties for election workers, along with other legislative items in the special session.

The Texas members have taken meetings on Capitol Hill with Democratic lawmakers and met with Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday.

“Earlier today, it was brought to our attention that two of the members at that meeting tested positive for COVID-19,” Symone Sanders, a senior adviser for Harris, said in a statement. “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.”

Sanders added that Harris and her staff are fully vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidance says fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask or socially distance unless required by law, or local or business guidance. Fully vaccinated individuals who are potentially exposed to the coronavirus do not need to be tested, the guidance says, unless they experience symptoms, but should monitor their health for two weeks.

The CDC guidance does, however, require mask-wearing “on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.” Many of the Texas Democrats did not appear to wear one on their charter flights to D.C., which some Republicans pointed out even before the positive tests.

The statement from the Texas House Democrats did not identify which three members had tested positive, but said all three were fully vaccinated. The cases were first reported by the Austin American-Statesman.

"We are in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance," Texas House Democratic Chair Chris Turner said in the statement. "Our caucus will follow all recommendations from public health experts as we continue our work.”

State Rep. Celia Israel, who represents an Austin-area district, told POLITICO that she had tested positive.

“It just feels like I have a cold,” she said in a brief phone interview. Israel added that she was fully vaccinated, and would be isolating in her hotel room for at least the next 10 days. She said that several members of the delegation had dropped off food for her.

In an additional statement, Israel said she took a test on Friday — after being notified that another member of the caucus had tested positive — and tested negative, before subsequently testing positive on Saturday.

“Let this be a reminder that COVID-19 is still very much among us, with infection rates on the rise and more contagious variants spreading nationwide,” she said in the statement, urging unvaccinated people to get a shot. "Most importantly, I hope this instance highlights the sacrifices we're willing to make for the cause of democracy. I would not change anything to protect the right to vote."

House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican who has railed against the Democrats for leaving the state, wished those that tested positive good health in a tweet: “Kim and I extend our prayers for safety and health for the members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus who tested positive for COVID-19 while in Washington, D.C.”

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