Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will not investigate allegations from House Democrats that House GOP leadership covered up a lawmaker’s COVID-19 diagnosis.
On Wednesday, State Rep. Brian Sims (D-182) posted a 12-minute long video on his Facebook page claiming House Republican leadership knew that Rep. Andrew Lewis (R-Dauphin) had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and never informed House Democrats, including those who had been in contact with him.
Sims along with fellow Democratic State Reps. Jason Dawkins, Malcolm Kenyatta and Elizabeth Fiedler called for an investigation and for Republican Speaker of the House Mike Turzai to step down.
"I want a full-blown investigation by the Attorney General," Sims said. "Every single member of Republican leadership that knew that this was happening. I want an investigation of what kind of contact tracing they did."
Shapiro, a Democrat, told NBC10 Thursday he was “disappointed” by the allegations and called on public officials to demonstrate “common decency” by following public health guidelines and being transparent with their colleagues and the Department of Health. He also said he would not conduct a criminal investigation however.
“While I understand their frustration and concern, a criminal investigation is not warranted based on our initial review,” Shapiro said.
“Capitol staff and state House members with concerns about COVID-19 contact tracing and exposure should contact the independent Chief Clerk of the state House and continue to follow the guidance of the Secretary of Health.”
Rep. Lewis confirmed with NBC10 that he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 20 after undergoing the test on May 18.
“I immediately began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department,” Lewis wrote. “My last day in the Capitol was Thursday, May 14."
Lewis insisted he and those he notified followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s workplace exposure guidelines to determine everyone he may have been in contact with and everyone who may have possibly been exposed.
“I can confirm every member or staff member who met the criteria for exposure was immediately contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days from their date of possible exposure,” Lewis said.
Lewis also said he chose to keep his positive case private out of respect for his family and “those who I may have exposed.” He also said that he has now fully recovered.
Mike Straub, the Pennsylvania House Republican Spokesman, told NBC10 he followed CDC and Department of Health guidelines and was also protecting Rep. Lewis’ privacy.
“I know you guys know that in the media, but HIPAA limits exactly what anyone can say about a coworker's medical history,” Straub said.
“Rep. Lewis made the decision to make his story public today – but we could not make that announcement, or provide information that could lead to identifying him.”