OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives confirmed Friday they have tested positive for the coronavirus, just days after a swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in which many lawmakers and their families weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.
Republican state Reps. Kevin Wallace of Wellston and Tammy Townley of Ardmore both confirmed in statements to The Associated Press that they have tested positive.
Wallace said he tested positive before Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony and took his oath privately, without any other members present.
“The Oklahoma State Department of Health has been working on trace back,” Wallace said in a statement. “I am still asymptomatic and quarantining.”
Townley tested positive after participating in the ceremony, during which many members and their families didn’t wear masks and violated social distancing guidelines. Townley said she had previously tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies this summer and said she had “zero reason” to believe she was a transmission risk.
“I was very surprised to have a positive result, given my prior positive test for antibodies,” she said. “I immediately notified House leadership and am participating in contact tracing efforts.”
There’s evidence that reinfection is unlikely for at least three months even for people who had a mild case of COVID-19, but there’s still a lot about the coronavirus that scientists don’t know.
House Democratic leader Rep. Emily Virgin said all of the House Democrats wore masks during Wednesday’s events and she’s disappointed that some of her Republican colleagues won’t follow guidelines recommended by health officials.
“As legislators, I feel like it’s our duty to set a good example. Instead, some of my colleagues continue this narrative that wearing masks is some kind of political statement, when that is a very dangerous narrative for them to continue,” she said.
Wallace and Townley are the sixth and seventh state lawmakers to confirm publicly they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two state senators and three House members previously confirmed positive tests. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt in July became the first governor nationwide known to have tested positive.
The Senate on Friday announced it was canceling its ceremonial swearing-in that was scheduled for Monday at the Oklahoma History Center and limiting attendance at the official swearing-in inside the Senate chamber.
The state health department reported a record number of 1,279 people hospitalized Friday due to COVID-19, 2,667 newly reported cases and 12 additional deaths.
The department reported a total of 147,358 cases and 1,493 deaths since the pandemic began in March.
There were 24,091 active cases that could actually be 100,000 or more, according to University of Oklahoma medical center Dr. Dale Bratzler.
The true number of infections is also likely higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected and not feel sick.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Oklahoma has risen from 1,101 per day to 2,117.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
OKLAHOMA CITY SCHOOLS
Oklahoma City school district Superintendent Sean McDaniel announced Friday that the district will return to full-time virtual learning for the remainder of the semester starting Monday because of the increase in coronavirus cases in Oklahoma County.
McDaniel said in a news release that the number of cases per 100,000 population in the county has increased from 30.4 to 67.3 in the past week, moving the county into the state education department’s Red Alert Level.
“(Friday’s) report reminds us of how fluid our situation is. OKCPS teams will continue to work closely with our state and local public health partners as we consider a variety of data points to inform our next steps,” McDaniel said.
The semester ends Dec. 18.