One day after news broke that Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano tested positive for COVID-19 while at the White House Wednesday, the Senate Republican Caucus had nothing to say about it or about any efforts to trace the senator’s close contacts.
Numerous attempts on Monday to get comment about Sunday’s report about the senator’s positive test results from caucus spokeswomen and Mastriano himself, including a visit to his Franklin County home, were unsuccessful.
Mastriano, who has shunned masks and been an ardent opponent of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, abruptly exited a West Wing meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday evening after being told he had tested positive, according to the Associated Press, which said its source was a person with direct knowledge of the meeting.
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Along with other state lawmakers, Mastriano traveled to the White House, accompanied by his son Josiah and a friend of his son’s, to meet with Trump about efforts to overturn the state’s election results that handed President-elect Joe Biden a victory.
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All participants attending that White House meeting took COVID-19 tests but the positive results were not announced until they were already meeting with the president, according to the report.
The lawmakers’ visit to the White House followed a nearly four-hour-long Senate Republican Policy Committee meeting at a packed room inside a Gettysburg hotel. During the session that committee Chairman David Argall, R-Schuylkill County, described at the outset as a “legislative hearing,” the discussion focused solely on issues raised by Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis about unfounded claims aimed at discrediting the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election.
The session, attended by 14 GOP senators and representatives, featured several witnesses that Giuliani introduced to the panel of lawmakers as well as a crowd consisting of Trump supporters, including U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa. Only a few wore masks.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, who wore a mask most of the time, was seated next to Mastriano at the table at the front of the hotel conference room. She said on Monday that she plans to get tested this Friday. She said she is exhibiting no symptoms and even climbed hills during a walk on Monday.
She declined to discuss whether she has had any conversations with Mastriano.
Messages left for Argall, who was seated on the other side of Mastriano at the table inches apart and who had several private conversations with him during the session, were not returned.
A representative from Wyndham Gettysburg, where the meeting took place, said the hotel was not commenting to the press about event.
Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa of Allegheny County issued a statement wishing Mastriano and others who may have contracted the coronavirus a speedy recovery. He went on to extend his hope that Mastriano will “wear a mask in all of his events and gatherings – including on the Senate floor. It is inappropriate to expose others, including our Senate colleagues and staff, to the risk of contracting the virus.”
State Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle had strong words critical of the Republican gathering that came at a time when cases of the coronavirus are on the rise in Pennsylvania.
“It’s disappointing and disgraceful for elected officials and their staff and supporters to blatantly disregard the orders in place, especially while in a public building or public event, putting themselves, their fellow lawmakers, their staffs and journalists covering an event at risk, especially when we have seen the consequences of not wearing a mask: members of the Trump campaign, Trump Administration and the Pennsylvania General Assembly have contracted, and continue to contract COVID,” Wardle said.
“This behavior by elected officials is a slap in the face to all the medical professionals working tirelessly to provide life-saving, compassionate care for the record number of Pennsylvanians currently hospitalized with this deadly and volatile virus.”
The state’s positive test rate jumped to 11.7%, up from 11.1% last week, according to health department data. The positive rate was 9.6% two weeks ago. Health officials have said when the positive rate rises above 5%, it’s an indication of troubling community spread.
Since the end of September, the health department said the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 3,000 patients, putting the state’s health system at a critical point of being overrun.
“It is up to all of us, and particularly those who are our leaders, to take steps to prevent that from happening. We wish the senator well in his recovery,” Wardle said.