Texas voting bill: Democrats explain why they broke quorum
Texas Democrats, Donna Howard, Eddie Rodriguez, Celia Israel, Vikki Goodwin, Sheryl Cole, John Bucy and Gina Hinojosa, explain why they left Austin for D.C.
American-Statesman staff, Austin American-Statesman
WASHINGTON — Three Texas House Democrats have tested positive for COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., according to Texas House Democratic Caucus leadership.
They’re among nearly 60 lawmakers who fled the state Monday to break quorum in the House, part of an effort to block the passage of a GOP-led elections bill. Most members are staying in the same hotel.
One member found out about their positive test result late Friday evening, but they do not have symptoms, caucus officials said. All House lawmakers were alerted and received a rapid test immediately following the member’s positive result.
Two additional members tested positive in a rapid test Saturday morning and one has mild symptoms, the caucus said.
The three who have tested positive on the rapid tests will receive a PCR coronavirus test, a more sensitive and accurate version of a COVID-19 test. The positive members will isolate for 10 days.
The three members are vaccinated. The caucus did not release their names.
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There was a notable increase in the use of face coverings among lawmakers and Democratic staffers at their hotel Saturday morning. Since members arrived late Monday, masks have been used sparingly as they moved through the lobby and held meetings around the city.
The delta variant, a highly contagious mutation of the coronavirus, has become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States. On Thursday, Travis County slid back to tightened restrictions after four cases of the variant were confirmed in the Austin area.
Unvaccinated people remain most at risk of contracting the coronavirus and having a more serious illness. All Texas House Democrats have been vaccinated, the caucus said.
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Rep. Donna Howard of Austin is a former critical care nurse and consulted a public health physician to determine safety protocols for Democrats on the ground in Washington.
She said lawmakers have followed CDC guidelines throughout their trip – which state that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing unless required by law or private regulation – and they continue to follow public health guidelines now that three positive cases have emerged within their ranks.
“We have been following CDC guidelines and what we are seeing from this is that, as we’ve been told, the delta variant is more highly contagious, and can actually infect people who are fully vaccinated,” Howard said in an interview. “The good news is that you shouldn’t have much of a problem, even if you test positive, if you’re vaccinated. It also reminds us why it’s so critically important that everyone gets the vaccination.”
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As of July 14, the average daily case rate for the past seven days in Washington was 3.75 cases per 100,000 people and the city continued to be at the lowest phase of spread, according to the city’s coronavirus tracker.
Texas Democrats have met with a slew of Capitol Hill Democrats this week, including U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Vice President Kamala Harris also met with them on Tuesday.
Texas lawmakers dealt with multiple positive COVID-19 cases throughout the regular session in the Capitol. The first COVID-19 positive case came three days after the Legislature convened, when Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont. tested positive three days.
Texas House Democrats leave state for DC to block GOP voting bill
Texas Democrats left the state in a rebellion against GOP plans to pass sweeping changes to voting and elections.
Staff video, USA TODAY