Several local legislators were “self-isolating” as a precaution after a state senator attended a session while knowingly sick with what turned out to be COVID-19.
State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) showed up visibly sick for votes at the state Capitol over the past week, a practice at odds with advice from public health officials during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The General Assembly already had suspended its session due to the coronavirus, but reconvened on March 16 to grant Gov. Brian Kemp broad emergency powers to deal with it.
Beach’s COVID-19 diagnosis resulted in a March 18 suggestion from House and Senate leadership for all legislators to self-isolate through March 30 as a precaution.
“Effectively, an entire branch of our state government has been sidelined due to being exposed to this virus,” said state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta). “No one is immune. Every single person in this state needs to understand the gravity of the situation.”
The following are responses from some other local legislators.
State Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta)
“We are fine. The family is fine. Nothing has really changed for us because we were all staying home anyway and we stocked up on groceries two weeks ago. It’s about time for another run, but I’ve been told by health officials that as long as I don’t have symptoms, my husband and son can still do the shopping. I think I’ll send my son since he’s younger!
“I have not had close contact with Sen. Beach since March 5, so I think my risk is low. But there’s still those dang doorknobs I saw everyone touching last week. (I asked the Leadership on Tuesday to have the doorkeepers be the only ones to open the doors.)”
State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta)
“I was present on Monday, but I did not step foot into the Senate or interact with any senators. I also largely kept to myself while on the House floor because I understood the seriousness of the public health crisis we’re in.
“I feel healthy, but I’ll also be smart and will monitor my symptoms and continue to stay at home.”
State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell)
“I am not sick or have any symptoms of the coronavirus. I am healthy and have no concerns. However, because we were in close proximity in the Senate Chamber this week, we will all self-isolate ourselves for a period of time from the point of exposure, which will be until March 30.”
State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta)
“I am staying at home as much as possible, as everybody should be. Hopefully, everybody else is doing the same.
“There is only so much you can do. Just to follow the guidelines and try to stay away from people as much as possible until we can get a hold on this because of course, the biggest concern is the healthcare system being overwhelmed.”
State Rep. Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody)
Wilensky said he saw but did not have contact with Beach. Wilensky said his family has been enjoying open fields in Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park.
“Many of the members were concerned not only on Monday when we went to session, but also the week before. It is concerning, but we had to do our duty for the health and benefit of the citizens of Georgia.
“Everyone should be staying home. So even though we are self-quarantined, everyone should be doing the same. The quicker we take action by not going out in public unless necessary, the quicker it will end.
“And, thank you for all the messages and concern. Me and my family are good. We have been practicing social distancing since last week, so not much will change.
“We will get through this. We will come back from this stronger and wiser. Be strong. Be grateful. Stay home.”
State Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven)
“I’m doing well. It’s a small inconvenience to pay to ensure the safety of everyone else. So far, I’ve exhibited no symptoms. I never encountered Sen. Beach at the Capitol on Monday, so I’m hopeful to avoid any infection. But I’m doing exactly what the experts have asked us all to do: stay home.”
–John Ruch, Dyana Bagby and Hannah Greco