3 Texas Democrats who fled elections bill vote get COVID

By Darlene Superville and Ken Miller
Associated Press

Washington — Three of the Democratic state lawmakers who fled Texas to stymie a Republican-backed effort to impose broad new voting restrictions have tested positive for COVID-19, the Texas House's Democratic Caucus director said Saturday.

One lawmaker tested positive Friday and the other two did so on Saturday, according to caucus director Phillip Martin. All three were fully vaccinated against the disease, according to Martin, who declined to release their names or conditions to “respect the privacy of Members and their personal health.”

FILE - In this Thursday, July 8, 2021 file photo, Texas Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, speaks as the Democratic members of the Texas House gather after a recess in the opening day of a special session in Austin, Texas.

More than 50 Texas lawmakers arrived in Washington on Monday after leaving their home state on a private charter flight. They received criticism from Republicans and others after a photo showed them maskless on the plane, though federal pandemic guidelines don’t require masks to be worn on private aircraft.

Martin said it is not known where or when the three were infected.

“We don't know. In order to be on the plane everybody had to be fully vaccinated,” according to Martin.

“This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions,” Rep. Chris Turner, the caucus chairman, said in a statement, adding that the caucus was conferring with health experts in Texas to get additional guidance.

The Democrats left the state to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill that would place new restrictions on voting in Texas.

Members of the caucus have met with Vice President Kamala Harris, but Martin said it was not immediately known whether the three who contracted COVID-19 did so.

“Our team is going through the list (of those at the meeting) and trying to determine exactly who was there,” Martin said.

Harris' office said it would issue a statement later Saturday.

Members of the group also met with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, but none of the three infected attended that meeting and Schumer's office has been notified of the positive tests, according to Martin.

Turner said the White House was also notified.

Texas House Speaker Dade McPhelan, a Republican, issued a statement saying he and his wife were praying for the health and safety of the sick lawmakers.

"My staff has reached out to Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and his epidemiology team for any additional guidance on protocols for those exposed to COVID-19 post-vaccination,” Phelan wrote.

Miller contributed to this report from Oklahoma City.