Editorial: COVID-19 positives at legislature show it is time to test the General Assembly

Posted July 16, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2020 10:15 p.m. EDT

N.C. legislature masks

CBC Editorial: Thursday, July 16, 2020; Editorial #8563
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

What we know:

  • Wearing a protective mask is the best and easiest way to thwart the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
  • At least three people who interact with scores of people in the North Carolina General Assembly – a state senator, a lobbyist and a food worker -- have tested positive for COVID-19. None wore masks at the Legislative Building.
  • There are no requirements for wearing masks or observing social distancing among legislators, staff and lobbyists in the legislature’s facilities. Many legislators believe they are making partisan political statements by refusing to use them.
  • Legislative officials even suspended temperature screening for admission to the Legislative Building in mid-June. It was only restarted after some legislators complained and raised an uproar.
  • Most members of the state legislature are in the “high risk age group” for coronavirus.

What we do not know:

  • How long the legislator, lobbyist and food worker had been COVID-19 positive before their condition was confirmed.
  • Specifically, who – or how many people – the three were in direct contact with.
  • How many other asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers may have been wandering halls, meeting rooms and offices of the General Assembly’s facilities.

What we need to know:

  • Are there any legislators, staffers or other General Assembly workers who are COVID-19 positive.
  • If there are any – and it’s a pretty good bet there are – then they should be isolated from the legislature until they test negative.
  • What the COVID-19 status is of EVERY member of the General Assembly.

Every senator, representative, staffer and legislative worker – from housekeepers to Legislative Services Director Paul Coble -- must be tested. There should be no question as to the reliability of the testing. It must be arranged through the state Department of Health and Human Services with an accredited neutral provider.

The general results of the testing – how many positive and how many negative – must be reported to the public. The specific results for EVERY legislator must also be made public.

Meanwhile there should be a major deep cleaning, disinfection and enhanced sanitation of all areas of the Legislative Building and the Legislative Office Building.

These are not extraordinary measures. Many businesses – especially those involved with direct interaction with the public or providing a service – do this as a matter or course when an employee is identified as COVID-19 positive. Ask Bojangles, Chick-fil-A or any number of childcare centers around the state that have closed temporarily after a positive coronavirus diagnosis. It is not an admission of failure. It is the reality in a pandemic, it builds public trust and it is the right thing to do.

It is past time for the leaders of the General Assembly to end their disseminating and denials.

There is no shame in facing up to reality, being responsible and doing the right thing. This REALLY is a life and death matter.

Get tested and, even in the halls, offices and chamber of the General Assembly, observe the “3 Ws:”

Wear a mask; Wait six-feet apart and Wash your hands frequently.

End the reflexive denial. Stop being an impediment to addressing the pandemic. Do the right thing.

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