Utah Democrat accuses Republican COVID-positive lawmakers of ignoring isolation and mask guidelines

“Leading by example is important,” state Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, chats with Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City,, in the Senate, on Thursday, Feb.18, 2021.

A Democratic senator on Thursday blasted lawmakers who test positive for COVID-19 and show up to work at the Capitol without isolating for five days or wearing masks.

“Here we are three days into the 2022 legislative session and, frankly, we’re not off to a great start. We’re seeing legislators show up testing positive for COVID-19 and refusing to wear masks to keep the rest of us safe,” said Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, outside the Capitol building steps Thursday afternoon during a news conference on Senate and House Democrats’ legislative priorities.

Kitchen added that it’s critical for Utahns to wear masks as the state faces an omicron surge. State health officials on Thursday reported 11,608 new COVID-19 cases and 22 more COVID-related deaths since yesterday.

“Leading by example is important,” Kitchen said.

The criticism comes after Senate President Stuart Adams tested positive twice for COVID-19 on the first day of the legislative session, despite saying he had tested negative for the virus earlier in the day.

Adams tested positive for the virus last week and isolated for five days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who test positive to wear masks around others for five days after isolation. Adams, who completed his isolation on Monday, has appeared in the Capitol building without a mask throughout the week.

Kitchen said he also heard that two House members tested positive for the virus on Wednesday morning and continued to conduct their work at the Capitol on the same day. A Utah House spokesperson declined to confirm whether any members have tested positive for the virus.

“We do not track or disclose results of COVID-19 tests and will not at any time during the session,” said Alexa Roberts, a communications manager for the Utah House of Representatives.

State Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Sandy, who also works as a medical doctor, said there have been times when she’s felt more worried about contracting the virus at the Capitol than at the hospital treating COVID-19 patients.

“We all need to be looking out for each other and being respectful of each other,” Harrison said. “Many of us have family members or loved ones that are immunocompromised and I just hope that we’ll look out for each other and follow the guidelines of medical experts when it comes to positive COVID tests, which are go home for five days and then wear masks consistently for five days following your positive test.”

Prior to the start of the 2022 General Session, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox exempted state-run facilities in the state from local mask mandates issued by local governments.