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From the archives 2020

Pa. Democratic state senator tests positive for the coronavirus

by Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA |

State Sen. Anthony Williams, seen here at the Delaware County Courthouse, said in a statement he is following recommended health guidelines.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer

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HARRISBURG — Philadelphia state Sen. Anthony H. Williams has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the second Pennsylvania legislator to contract COVID-19.

Williams’ disclosure of a positive diagnosis Tuesday led at least two of his Democratic colleagues who recently attended a press conference with him — including Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny) — to seek testing.

Another lawmaker, Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre), said he decided not to return to the Senate floor Tuesday for the voting session because he had been in contact with Williams in the past 14 days, and believed it was prudent to self-quarantine.

“I just thought it was the proper thing to do, to be cautious,” said Corman, adding that he is not exhibiting symptoms.

In a statement, Williams said he is following recommended health guidelines, and had informed Senate Democratic leadership and those he had come into contact with “so they can take the necessary steps to evaluate if they are running any risk.”

Williams also said that he is shuttering his offices for two weeks “out of an abundance of caution.”

Brittany Crampsie, a spokesperson for Senate Democrats, said Williams began experiencing symptoms last Thursday, was tested Friday, and received the result Tuesday. Fewer than 10 staffers who were exposed to the senator in recent weeks have been told to work from home, she said.

“If any of their tests are positive, we will expand our contact tracing,” Costa said in a statement.

It was not immediately known when Williams, who did not respond to an interview request, was last in Harrisburg. His social media posts show that he has attended a handful of in-person events over the past few weeks. That includes a June 30 press conference at the Capitol with Costa and Sen. Vince Hughes (D., Philadelphia). All senators, including Williams, wore masks.

Costa was tested Tuesday and said he will quarantine until he receives his test results. Hughes was also tested, according to Crampsie.

Kate Flessner, a spokesperson for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), declined to comment on how the Republican caucus is dealing with Williams’ disclosure, saying only that the chamber has policies and protocols in place when there is potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

In late May — after a Republican House member revealed, a week after his diagnosis, that he had tested positive for COVID-19 — Williams wrote Scarnati asking that the chamber mandate disclosure of potential coronavirus exposure to all four caucuses in both the House and Senate.

In his letter, Williams noted that while the Senate had adopted a policy requiring disclosure of a coronavirus case, only people who work for the upper chamber would be informed.

The belated revelation that Rep. Andrew Lewis (R., Dauphin) had tested positive for COVID-19 sparked outrage among his Democratic colleagues who complained that they had been left in the dark about the diagnosis.

At the time, Lewis said he immediately began self-isolating after receiving the test result and that he informed House officials, who worked to identify anyone he may have exposed.

But while some Republican lawmakers were notified of their potential exposure and self-isolated as a result, Democrats said they only learned of it from a reporter, despite their own daily proximity to Lewis.

The episode prompted multiple calls for public officials to promptly — and publicly — disclose a positive test result.

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