“On Monday 18 May I was tested for COVID-19 and on Wednesday 20 May I was informed that my test turned positive. I immediately started the self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives and our Human Resources department. The my last day in the Capitol was Thursday May 14th. “
He then added, by way of explanation, that he had waited a whole week to make this information public “out of respect for my family and those I may have exposed”.
So, “out of respect” for his family and the people he could have infected with coronavirus, did he decide not to broadcast that he had contracted Covid-19? This is not how it works.
The point that Pennsylvania House Democratic leader Frank Dermody raised after learning Wednesday of Lewis’s diagnosis.
“Knowing how House members and staff work closely together on Capitol Hill, we should have been aware of this much earlier,” said Dermody. “In the past two weeks alone, there have been six days of electoral sessions here on Capitol Hill and more than 15 separate meetings of House committees that have voted on dozens of bills. For those members who went to the Capitol in person, each of these meetings increases the risk of possible exposure. “
Lewis added that he followed the workplace exposure guidelines of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine who may have been exposed, stating, “I can confirm that every member or staff member who met the exposure criteria was immediately contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days from the date of their possible exposure. “
But if Dermody says that the Democrats in the House have not been informed – and they all share the same space – how is this possible?
And here’s another thing we know about coronavirus: asymptomatic transmission is possible. This means that people could have the virus – and give it to others – before they start feeling sick.
So, it is absolutely right for all of us that when and if we start to feel bad with things like fatigue, fever and cough – or someone we interacted with closely feels that way – that not only do we self-quarantine but we make sure that anyone we could interact with does the same. And it is also important – because of the transmissibility and the asymptomatic transmission – that the network of those who could have infected more widely than narrower spreads.
Ask yourself this: how bad would Lewis have been to tell every single member of the state chamber – and even the state senate – that he had tested positive for coronavirus the day he knew he had? Of course, it would have required more people to be tested. And it probably would have caused a little more anxiety for people who thought they were exposed. But if they had actually had the virus, wouldn’t they have done better to get tested to be treated?
This is a rhetorical question. Because the answer is obviously “yes”.
What Lewis apparently has done – apparently encouraged by his Republican colleagues in the House – is to act selfishly in a situation where altruism is the answer. The only way to repel coronavirus – or at least to prevent a second wave of viruses from occurring – is to understand that we are all actually involved in this whole.
Republicans and Democrats get this virus. And they can give it to each other.
The way we win is to be transparent, to understand that more information is better than less information and to really understand that our actions have an impact far beyond us and our immediate family.
Unfortunately, what happened in Pennsylvania seems to be an example of doing exactly the opposite.