HARRISBURG, PA (AP) – A Pennsylvania Republican lawmaker announced Monday that he had COVID-19 and confirmed the positive test five days after going to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and went maskless at a crowded public meeting to discuss efforts to overthrow President-elect Joe Biden's victory.
State Senator Doug Mastriano first revealed the diagnosis on a Facebook live video Monday night, the day after The Associated Press reported that Mastriano was informed of the positive test during a west wing meeting with Trump.
On Tuesday, the conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck asked Mastriano about his diagnosis.
"I feel fantastic," said Mastriano, then changed the subject.
Meanwhile, a Republican lawmaker who attended the Gettysburg public session Wednesday with Mastriano, Senator Judy Ward, announced that she also tested positive. The public session took place despite pandemic guidelines from the Department of Health and Internal Senate restricting gatherings.
The AP learned of the White House test results from a person with direct knowledge of the meeting. Mastriano insisted on Facebook that the report was inaccurate but did not say, as he did in a 15-minute video confirming that he tested positive and described his symptoms as "fairly mild".
He didn't say where or when he was being tested and didn't discuss the White House meeting. Neither Mastriano nor his spokesman have returned any messages asking for comment in the past few days.
Mastriano, who has led rallies against the wearing of masks and other measures to fight pandemics, said in the video that after interacting with large numbers of people this year, I get it "finally eight months and 20,000 people in".
Mastriano said he wanted to "dispel all rumors and get to the bottom of it" and suggested infecting the virus in a "basement suite with no air circulation," where two other people in the room later tested positive.
He didn't say when this happened or if it was before the Gettysburg incident, but also complained about allowing a makeup artist there to use the same brushes on him as others before him before going in front of the camera.
"I knew right there, you know, hold her up, don't let her put those brushes on your face, just walk away," he said. "And I didn't."
He said he didn't have a fever and expected his quarantine "to end here pretty quickly".
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommend that if the person has been without a fever for 24 hours and other symptoms improve, people who test positive are away from other people for 10 days after symptoms first appear.
Mastriano's trip to the White House followed the hour-long meeting at a Gettysburg hotel, held at Mastriano's request and where few people wore masks.
During the meeting, the Senate Republican Politics Committee listened to Trump's phone call, and Trump's lawyers, including Rudy Giuliani, reiterated unsubstantiated claims that Biden's Pennsylvania victory had been fraudulently obtained and urged them to overturn it.
No Pennsylvania election officer or prosecutor has cited evidence of widespread electoral fraud in the state, and Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Department of Justice had not uncovered evidence of widespread electoral fraud that would alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Republicans convened the Gettysburg meeting amid rising coronavirus infections in Pennsylvania, which Minister of Health Dr. Rachel Levine warned Monday that she was putting a strain on the state's hospitals and intensive care units.
Blair County Senator Judy Ward, who was wearing a mask a few yards from Mastriano at the public meeting, announced in a Facebook post on Monday that she had also tested positive for the virus. Ward said she believed she was infected at a Thanksgiving Day. It did not return any messages seeking a comment.
It is not clear how the Senate Republican heads of state, who have remained silent on the matter, have responded internally to a possible outbreak resulting from this meeting.
Mastriano said the contact tracing had been conducted but failed to provide details, and a Senate GOP spokesperson would only say the Senate continues to adhere to the COVID-19 mitigation policy passed earlier this year.
Senate Minority Chairman Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, criticized the meeting as irresponsible.
"The spread of this virus is something we have to take really seriously and we shouldn't expose our employees and others to any exposure," Costa said.
A health ministry spokesman declined to say whether the agency was conducting a contact trace based on the Gettysburg event.
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