OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State leaders learned from social media Thursday night that members of the House of Representatives tested positive for COVID-19, not even 48 hours after the House swearing in ceremony at the state capitol.
“I knew it was inevitable that members would get sick. I didn’t know that there would be such lack of transparency and communicating that there was an infection,” said Rept. Mickey Dollens (D-93).
Dollens, along with other house members, learned about two fellow house members testing positive for COVID-19 after Tulsa World tweeted it Thursday night.
Rep. Forrest Bennett tweeted in part, “How the hell do I learn about this from twitter and not from the house leadership?… We can’t ignore our way out of this.”
“Unfortunately, I would say 80 percent of Republicans at the swearing in ceremony were not wearing a mask. Every Democrat was wearing a mask. This type of negligence is gonna get people killed. It is getting people killed and it can be prevented,” Dollens said.
The two members who tested positive – Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-32) and Rep. Tammy Townley (R-48) – both released statements.
“As a requirement for a trip scheduled this weekend, I took a COVID-19 test. Immediately upon learning of testing positive, I contacted the Speaker’s Office. I did not participate in the Oath of Office ceremonies or take my oath with any other members. The Oath of Office was administered to me, individually, under CDC guidelines. The Oklahoma State Department of Health has been working on trace back. I am still asymptomatic and quarantining.”
REP. KEVIN WALLACE
“I tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies this summer and for that reason had zero reason to believe I was a transmission risk this week. This is why it is so surprising I tested positive again after the oath ceremony. I am asymptomatic, feel fine and only took a test because it was required for an event I planned to attend Thursday. I was very surprised to have a positive result, given my prior positive test for antibodies. I immediately notified House leadership and am participating in contact tracing efforts.”
REP. TAMMY TOWNLEY
Dollens said House leaders neglected to inform all members of the positive cases.
“I don’t trust leadership going forward. I don’t trust putting my life and my family’s lives in their hands and expect them to be forthright and honest when it comes to reporting the truth,” Dollens said. “I could have appreciated a phone call, at the very least an email.”
As a result of the new cases, changes have been announced for the senate’s swearing in ceremony next Monday.
The event, set to take place at the Oklahoma History Center, is now canceled.
Instead, the ceremony will take place in Senate chambers in small groups.
Officials say masks are encouraged and social distancing will be observed.
But Dollens says more should be done moving forward.
“The changes that must take place is beyond time for a statewide mask mandate. The people we expect to lead by example and through their actions are just giving lip service to wearing masks. It’s not working,” Dollens said.
Dollens also says the provision to allow all levels of government to conduct business virtually should be extended as the pandemic continues.
But Gov. Kevin Stitt previously said he can’t extend that executive order allowing virtual meetings because it would require a special session.
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