Three Texas House Democrats have tested positive for coronavirus, according to Texas House Democratic Caucus. The three members had fled to Washington to prevent voting restrictions from being passed in Texas. Reports claim that the three members tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
The identity of the members who tested positive for coronavirus have not been revealed. But the first member of the caucus tested positive on July 16. The information rapidly spread across the caucus and entire staff, members were asked to take rapid tests. All tested negative.
According to the Daily Mail, the Democrat lawmakers had packed into a private plane not wearing masks. They had left for Washington, DC in two chartered flights that approximately cost $100,000.
Citing CDC Guidelines
On July 17, two more members of the caucus tested positive on rapid tests. Justifying its decision of leaving for Washington, the Caucus stated the CDC guideline. "The caucus also consulted current CDC guidance, which says that fully vaccinated people who had been exposed to someone who tested positive do not need to take any additional precautions unless they are showing symptoms." It also explained that the first member who tested positive may not have been symptomatic.
It issued an additional statement asking the members to be cautious. "This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions," House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner said in a statement.
He explained that the caucus was in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance. He also assured that the caucus members will follow all recommendations from public health experts and will continue to work.
Can Democrats Stop Passing of the New Bill?
Reports claim that at least 50 members of the caucus had left Texas abruptly on July 12 to prevent the passing of the restrictive voting bill. Democrats are aiming at denying Republicans the needed quorum during the special session.
The details of accommodation of the 50 members have not been revealed. The only information available currently is that they are staying in an unidentified hotel and will not return to Texas until August 7 [last day of the special session]. Reports stated that the caucus members had held numerous news conferences and meetings in Washington.
Meanwhile, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R), extended "prayers for safety and health" of Democrats who had tested positive while in Washington. "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 said in a statement.
Phelan is said to have lost the support of most of the Democrats two days ago, when he stripped El Paso's Joe Moody (D) of the speaker pro tem's position. Phelan also cut off a flow of state living-expense money to Democrats. This had prompted at least 90 percent of the Democrats to state that they will not support Phelan's re-election for the GOP speaker's position in 2023.
Democrats have said that their absence from the session may only delay Texas Republicans' efforts to pass the new voting bill. But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has vowed to call additional special sessions until the bill is passed. While Phelan had said that he would charter a plane to demand Democrats return to Texas, Abbott has threatened the Democrats with arrest.