A Texas House member tested positive for the coronavirus after being on the chamber floor for three straight days, giving lawmakers an early indication of the dangers of governing during the pandemic.
State Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, told The Texas Tribune he tested positive Thursday — three days after lawmakers gaveled in for this year’s legislative session. The Democrat said he received a rapid test outside the Capitol because it was “free and quick” as he was heading home Thursday afternoon.
He has “no idea” how he contracted it, said Deshotel, who is currently quarantining and reported minor symptoms. “I don’t know where it came from. It rather shocked me when the guy told me.”
“Getting tested is important and wearing a mask is important,” he added. “You can certainly have [the coronavirus] and not know it, I can tell you that.”
Deshotel said his last test for the virus prior to testing positive on Thursday had been on Monday. He did not opt to receive a test before entering the Capitol on Tuesday or Wednesday.
State Rep. Michelle Beckley, D-Carrollton, tweeted Friday morning that she had been informed the night before of a “member in my 3 foot radius” testing positive for the virus.
“They did not test on Tuesday prior to the swearing in ceremony,” Beckley tweeted. “10 day self quarantine.”
Another House member, state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, told the Tribune on Friday that she would also self-quarantine according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and said she appreciated Deshotel notifying those who he came into contact with after testing positive.
“With COVID-19 cases soaring across the state, including here in Central Texas, it’s inevitable that legislators will test positive and expose our colleagues,” Zwiener said. “Rep. Deshotel is setting a tone of transparency that’s essential as we move forward.”
Before the House gaveled in Tuesday, House Administration Chair Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, had asked lawmakers to take a test ahead of the opening day ceremony. State Rep. Justin Holland, R-Rockwall, responding to Beckley’s tweet, called it “very selfish and irresponsible” to not do so.
“Anyone that objected to take one prior to Tuesday clearly did so out of pride,” Holland tweeted. “Shame on them.”
Obviously, I hope Rep. Deshotel has a quick recovery, and that no one else became infected. This is the limit of testing – there’s a lag between when you get sick and when you might first test positive. That’s also the reason why wearing masks is so damn important, because anyone could be sick and not only not know it but also have a recent negative test to show. Until we’re all vaccinated, we’re all at risk. At least the House is adjourned till January 26, so no one should miss any time in session as a result of this. But please, for everyone’s sake, wear the damn mask. Texas Monthly has more.