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2 Oklahoma lawmakers confirm positive tests for coronavirus

Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives confirmed Friday they have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Republican state Reps. Kevin Wallace of Wellston and Tammy Townley of Ardmore both confirmed in statements to The Associated Press that they have tested positive.

The announcement comes just days after a swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in which many lawmakers and their families weren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

Wallace said he tested positive before Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony and took his oath privately, without any other members present.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Health has been working on trace back,” Wallace said in a statement. “I am still asymptomatic and quarantining.”

Townley tested positive after participating in the ceremony, during which many members and their families didn’t wear masks and violated social distancing guidelines. Townley said she had previously tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies this summer and said she had “zero reason” to believe she was a transmission risk.

“I was very surprised to have a positive result, given my prior positive test for antibodies,” she said. “I immediately notified House leadership and am participating in contact tracing efforts.”

There’s evidence that reinfection is unlikely for at least three months even for people who had a mild case of COVID-19, but there’s still a lot about the coronavirus that scientists don’t know.

House Democratic leader Rep. Emily Virgin said all of the House Democrats wore masks during Wednesday’s events and she’s disappointed that some of her Republican colleagues won’t follow guidelines recommended by health officials.

“As legislators, I feel like it’s our duty to set a good example. Instead, some of my colleagues continue this narrative that wearing masks is some kind of political statement, when that is a very dangerous narrative for them to continue,” she said.

Wallace and Townley are the sixth and seventh state lawmakers to confirm publicly they have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two state senators and three House members previously confirmed positive tests. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt in July became the first governor nationwide known to have tested positive.

The Senate on Friday announced it was canceling its ceremonial swearing-in that was scheduled for Monday at the Oklahoma History Center and limiting attendance at the official swearing-in inside the Senate chamber.

Outbreaks at other state legislatures have caused cancellations or delays of legislative work, including in Mississippi, where dozens of lawmakers tested positive, California and Michigan.

At least 173 legislators in 40 states have contracted coronavirus, including four who have died, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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