After testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Senate President Stuart Adams opened the 2022 session unmasked, conducting business as normal and trying to reassure senators and the public he was fully recovered.
In his opening comments to Tuesday, Adams initially said he’d tested positive twice for COVID-19 since yesterday but backtracked seconds later.
“I tested negative twice,” he said, joking that he’d misspoken to make sure people were listening.
In reality, the senator had indeed tested positive twice Tuesday morning.
After The Salt Lake Tribune made inquiries about the senator’s test results and filed an open records request regarding the test results, the Senate was backtracking on Adams’ original statement.
According to Senate Chief of Staff Mark Thomas, Adams tested negative on Monday, then tested positive Tuesday morning. Adams took a second test which he thought was negative, but Thomas was notified later that there was, in fact, a faint line on the test indicating it was positive.
When Adams made his comments on the floor, Thomas said, Adams thought he had indeed had two negative tests.
Adams made no mention of the positive result that morning.
“President Adams took COVID-19 tests and had mixed results, which may have caused confusion,” Senate deputy chief of staff Aundrea Peterson said in her statement. “It’s not uncommon to test positive days after contracting COVID-19, and according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], a positive test after recently recovering from COVID-19 does not mean the individual is contagious.”
Peterson said the senator has followed the CDC guidelines, has not had a fever since Saturday, and his symptoms had subsided.
Adams originally began having symptoms Wednesday night and tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning. He had planned to attend a news conference Friday regarding the status of COVID-19 in Utah but did not because of the test.
CDC guidelines state that someone with COVID-19 should isolate for five days and then wear a mask for an additional five days to prevent the spread of the virus.
Adams was maskless when he opened the session Tuesday, including when he greeted Elder Gerrit W. Gong, one of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who offered an opening prayer. Adams wore a mask when he met with news media later in the day but was unmasked again when the Senate resumed business in the afternoon.
COVID testing is available to legislators and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the session, but it is not mandatory. Adams told reporters that a handful of staff and interns tested positive Tuesday, but said no senators tested positive — even though he had twice.
A massive outbreak of the omicron variant has caused record-high case counts and a record number of hospitalizations. State officials have encouraged symptomatic people to assume they are infected and not get tested to preserve testing capacity.
The Senate voted Tuesday evening to rescind a Salt Lake County mask requirement issued by the county health department and upheld last week by a vote of the county council.