Statehouses can prove to be hothhouses for virus infections

Helena, Mont. (AP) – U.S. Surrounding legislators invite to address the crisis created by the epidemic this winter, the statehouses themselves could be homeless people for the infection.

Many legislators will start the year meeting remotely, but some Republican-controlled statehouses, from Montana to Pennsylvania, plan to hold at least part of their sessions in person, without the need for a mask. Public health officials say the move threatens the safety of other legislators, employees, lobbyists, the public and journalists responsible for holding politicians accountable.

The risk is more than just speculation: The Associated Press’s ongoing telly found that more than 250 state legislators across the country have signed the COVID-19 agreement, and at least seven have died.

The Montana legislature called the rules Monday without a mask. The Republican majority has slammed recent Democratic requests to keep the session away or delay until vaccines become more widely available. Failing that, Democrats asked for masks and virus testing requirements, which were denied.

Democratic legislators wore masks while taking oaths. A few Republicans did just that.

“If a session is held without public health precautions, it’s likely to spread the virus to the environment, and it’s very likely that we’ll see serious illness and, God forbid, deaths come from there,” said Drenda Nimene, Lewis and Clark. Health officials in the county, including the state capital of Helena.

Instead of addressing the COVID-19 guidelines prior to the session, Republicans decided to address the legislators after convening a panel to meet regularly to consider updating policies. Senate President Pro, Republican Jason Ellsworth said the panel “allows the situation to become more fluid” and “allows for our personal freedom and our responsibilities.”

Republican lawmakers largely reject the mask order and lockdown measures, and Democrats urge for a more cautious approach – mirrors of Americans in general. The paradox was reflected in the holidays, when millions of people were stranded on roads and airports, despite requests from health officials to avoid travel and family gatherings to contain the virus, which has claimed more than 350,000 American lives.

Some legislators are trying to strike a balance between doing business personally and protecting against disease.

The 00-member New Hampshire House plans to hold its first semester day on Wednesday with a drive-in event at the University of New Hampshire, which Acting President Sharma Packard called the body’s “most risk-averse session” yet during the epidemic.

The home clerk and speaker will do business from the heated platform and members can watch and listen through the screen or through their car radio. Microphones will be brought to their windows for questions and discussions, and will be voted on by electronic devices.

Republican New Hampshire House Speaker Dick Hinch’s U.N.H. Kovid-19 died on December 9, a week after he was sworn in during an outdoor gathering in. Democrats have pushed for remote gatherings.

Legislatures in Alaska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Washington Washington require masks, but Pennsylvania has not implemented the requirement. Lack of implementation is a concern for news outlets who have to balance their ability to cover events with the safety of their reporters.

“If we start getting into a high profile issue and there are a number of journalists voicing questions on an MLA who is unmaxed, it can’t be a worse situation,” said Paula Knudson Burke, with the Press Freedom Committee for the Press Committee. . Pennsylvania.

In Idaho, where legislators are not required to wear masks, Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television said media outlets are trying to protect journalists, while also ensuring adequate ens of legislators, many of whom do not follow public safety guidelines like newspapers.

Casual way conversations are “valuable for coverage and insight and just for the background,” Duvlin said. “This loss is a real loss to our ability to cover the session. But at the same time, we will do no good to our viewers and readers if we are sick. “

Republicans in the Ohio House have blocked efforts to enforce the mask order, until more than a dozen lawmakers there have tested positive for COVID-19.

Incoming Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman was due to take the oath of office from his home on Monday after testing positive for COVID-19. Huffman has experienced mild symptoms and will return to the statehouse after the quarantine period, spokesman John Fortney said.

In Conservative Wyoming, where the Republican governor. Mark Gorden did not issue the mask order in early December, where legislators plan to call on Jan. 12 to hear the state’s state address. The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the leaders of the legislature will decide whether to start a virtual session in February or hold an individual session starting in March.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Roy Edwards died a day before the election family, which was later confirmed by his family. Edwards spoke out against public health restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus during his campaign.

In Montana, all floor sessions and committee meetings will be available to view or listen to view online, and legislators will be allowed to attend many hearings virtually, but will be disappointed to vote on the final bills by proxy. Public access and lobbyists will be able to testify on the bill using video conferencing if they have access to technology.

“I think it will likely censor people who are either vulnerable or who really value the advice of experts,” said Amnes Comith Smith, professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota.

Republican Senate Leader Ellsworth acknowledged that the MLA’s COVID-19 panel would not solve everything.

“At the end of the day, this is an animal we can’t control,” he said in December. Speaking about the epidemic during the hearing rules on the 16th. “I would imagine that we would be members of the sick. It is possible that we would have members who died. But that possibility is irregular there, whether we are here or not.”


Associated Press writers Cincord, Holly Rammer in New Hampshire and Fernosh Amiri in Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.