Big Sky Roundup

Sixth lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19

By: - March 24, 2021 5:19 pm

Coronavirus COVID-19 computer generated image.

The Legislature’s COVID-19 panel announced this week that the sixth lawmaker this session has tested positive for the coronavirus, but did not release their name, per a request from the lawmaker.

It’s the first time that a legislator who has tested positive for the virus has declined to release their name. Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, who chairs the COVID panel, said in a press release Tuesday that the individual was quarantining away from the Capitol and contact tracing was underway.

Whether lawmakers should release their names if they test positive for COVID has been a point of contention in the Capitol and an early subject of debate for the COVID-19 panel that Ellsworth heads. That committee, made up of a selection of top lawmakers from both parties and chambers, met a small number of times at the beginning of the legislative session but has not convened since, with Ellsworth saying previously the group had done its necessary work.

Democrats on the panel made attempts to pass amendments to legislative rules requiring masks in certain areas of the Capitol and providing sick-leave to short-term session workers who have to quarantine, among others, but were unsuccessful. The panel also ultimately declined to mandate that lawmakers report their names if they get the virus, giving them the option to go public if they desire, citing patient confidentiality. The previous five lawmakers to get COVID, all House Republicans, have chosen to release their names.

“It’s a bit concerning that we don’t have the information out there,” said Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena. “We should have more information, and folks should be honest with the public.” 

Two lawmakers and one staffer took COVID-19 tests on Monday, yielding one positive result, according to reporting by the Helena Independent Record.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.