Pennsylvania House Democrats accuse Republicans of keeping GOP member's positive Covid test from them for a week

Pennsylvania State capitol building in 2015.

Pennsylvania House Democrats are accusing Republican leaders of keeping a Republican lawmaker's positive coronavirus test from them for a week and not informing them that a handful of GOP members were quarantining as a result.

In a statement Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis confirmed he tested positive for Covid-19 on May 20 and immediately began self-isolating after working to notify anyone he had contact with while in the Capitol. Democratic Leader Frank Dermody told CNN he and other Democrats found out about Lewis' positive test Wednesday -- after Lewis said he had finished his self-isolation and announced his diagnosis publicly.

While the Republican-led legislature is contemplating how to reopen the state and fighting with the governor over his disaster emergency declaration, they're also fighting with Democrats, who say they didn't know about Lewis' positive test and are concerned about their health as they push for more business to be conducted remotely.

Lewis said he was last at the Capitol for session day on May 14. In a Facebook Live video, Lewis claimed he wore a mask that day, did not shake any hands, and that he only interacted with about five people.

The Dauphin County lawmaker said he notified "the House of Representatives and our caucus Human Resources department" of his diagnosis and they worked to determine who he may have been in contact with and may have possibly exposed to the virus. The Republicans control the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania.

"Anyone I had contact with that day were notified, they were able to quarantine, get tested, no positive tests that I'm aware of," Lewis said on Facebook.

Lewis said he chose to keep his positive case private "out of respect for my family, and those who I may have exposed."

"Now that I have fully recovered and completed the quarantine as required by the Department of Health, I feel now is the appropriate time to share this information with the public and my constituents," Lewis said Wednesday.

CNN has reached out to Lewis' office.

Dermody said in a statement that "while we are pleased to learn that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge."

"Knowing how House members and staff work closely together at the Capitol, we should have been made aware of this much sooner," Dermody said.

Dermody told CNN that he was "angry and disappointed" when he found out about Lewis' test on Wednesday afternoon from a local news report, prompting him to call the Republican leadership and House chief clerk to see if was true.

"We're talking to (Republicans). We're going to jointly develop policies so nothing like this happens again. But we should have been told," Dermody told CNN on Thursday, saying it's a "common decency."

Dermody told CNN that they've begun contact tracing to see which committee meetings Lewis attended and how close he was to Democratic members.

Republican Rep. Russ Diamond confirmed Wednesday in a statement that he was one of the members who had self-quarantined. On Twitter, Diamond said he did not get tested.

He wrote that he was notified on May 21 he had come in contact with someone on May 14 who tested positive for Covid-19, but he was not informed of who that individual was.

Diamond said on Wednesday that he's been in quarantine for 14 days and plans to return to the Capitol on Thursday. He said he did not feel ill nor has he had any symptoms of the virus.

Dermody told CNN he did not know of the other members who were asked to quarantine.

Mike Straub, House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler's press secretary, said in a statement provided to CNN that they had implemented CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines "in line with exactly what Gov. (Tom) Wolf requires from any business that wishes to operate currently."

He confirmed that "anyone who met those guidelines was notified and quarantined." Citing privacy concerns, Straub said he could not give anymore information about who was notified that they may have come in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

"The 48 hours before symptoms onset is worth nothing. By that timeline, Rep. Lewis was only in the Capitol for a short period of time within that window -- so tracing who he was in contact with was easily verified, and as he said in his statement, anyone who needed to be notified was notified and is currently self-isolating," he added.

As coronavirus cases began to rise in the state, the Pennsylvania House passed a temporary rule in March allowing its 203 members to vote remotely or by proxy.

Over the last two weeks, there have been six days of voting and over 15 separate House committee meetings, according to Dermody.

"For those members who journeyed to the Capitol in person, each of these meetings raises the risk of possible exposure," he said.

After Wednesday's disclosure, several state Democrats, including Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims, called on Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai to resign.

CNN has reached out to Turzai's office.

"I just spent the better part of the last 11 weeks sitting across a room from people who would eventually test positive and decided not to tell us," Sims said, visibly upset in a profanity-laced Facebook Live video. He called for every House member and staffer to be tested, and for Republicans to pay for it.

"How dare you put our lives at risk. How dare you put our families at risk," Sims said, slamming Republicans as "callous liars."

"This idea that by simply quarantining maybe the last two or three of his own colleagues that he interacted with after finding out he was positive is the same as a contact trace that's required by public health and the CDC is laughable if it wasn't so deadly," Sims told CNN's Brianna Keilar on Thursday.

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, the minority leader of the House State Government Committee, asked Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro for an investigation, saying, "we should know if any criminal or ethical laws were broken."

Democratic Rep. Dan Frankel, the minority chair of the House Health Committee, said that House Democratic leaders learned Wednesday that four members of the GOP caucus had been in self quarantine.

"All the while, some Republican members knew that their own membership had been exposed to Covid-19, and they chose to keep that information secret," Frankel said.

CNN's Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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