On Wednesday, less than 2 months after the State Capitol Building and surrounding office buildings shut down to to a mini-outbreak, 2 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Capitol Building were announced, cancelling today’s floor session and threatening to shut down future proceedings once again.
A Senator with COVID-19, another Senate delay
Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) and an unnamed California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer both had confirmed positive cases announced during the day.
“Senator Brian Jones today, upon his return to Sacramento this week for the end of Session, received news that he has tested positive for COVID-19,” said the office of Senator Jones in a tweet. “He will be taking additional tests to recheck the results and to rule out possibility of a false-positive result. In the meantime, he’ll be following CDC and CDPH protocols for those receiving a positive test result.”
(1/2) Senator Brian Jones today, upon his return to Sacramento this week for the end of Session, received news that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He will be taking additional tests to recheck the results and to rule out possibility of a false-positive result.
— Brian W. Jones (@SenBrianJones) August 26, 2020
While the CHP officer had only been in the Capitol Building on Monday, Senator Jones had been to a floor session on Monday and a Caucus on Tuesday, potentially spreading it to other Senators.
Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) now has to decide how the Senate will complete the next 5 days, as over 270 bills are either at or close to floor votes, not counting amended bills that need a revote in the Senate. A continuation of in-person voting with heightened health measures, remote voting, or a hybrid mix of the two are currently on the table, despite the Senate reaffirming earlier this year that there would be no remote voting during floor votes.
“The Senate will be prepared to continue our work when we have completed public health protocols to ensure that the risk of exposure has been eliminated,” said Senator Atkins in a statement on Wednesday. “The Senate will use the tools available to us to make sure that we can complete necessary work prior to August 31st.”
Many Senators expressed optimism for continuing in-person and to carry on the last few days until the end of the session next week despite one of the new cases infecting Senator Jones.
“We have, as senators, done a pretty good job of avoiding COVID-19 for five months,” explained Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa). “We’re all doing our best and we’re all trusting that everyone else is doing the same. I would like to conclude session, and if those that tested positive have to do it remotely, then so be it.”
Many Senators are also insisting that they can carry-on their work under social distancing and any increased measures in the Capitol Building.
With hundreds of bills to go and only 5 days left, the Senate has a hard call to make on voting
Capitol Building insiders also point out that, ever since the Assembly and Senate shut down for an additional few weeks last month due to the outbreak, that the new measures have been by and large working.
“Less people, less staffers have been allowed in, there are virtually no tourists, and everything is social distanced,” explained “Dana”, a State Capitol worker, to the Globe. “Everyone’s reacting to those cases, like Senator Jones’ case, as generally a ‘fluke’. A case was bound to show up again, and it was two isolated cases close together, assuming that the first tests weren’t false positives.
“The thing is, even with a reduced amount of bills, everyone is behind and rushing to get things done. There cannot be any more delays like this. They cancelled a floor session today, and that was critical. You can’t just stamp out hundreds of bills over a few days. Everyone has been working hard on all of them, especially staffers stuck working at home. I’ve had meetings with dogs barking and babies crying in the background. It’s been nuts.
“We’ll know very soon just how much more work and nights burning the midnight oil are up ahead.”
While the Senate is currently mulling their options for voting for the rest of the session, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) has said that floor session there would continue on as usual despite the two cases.
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