DARLENE SUPERVILLE and KEN MILLER Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Three of the Democratic state lawmakers who fled Texas to stymie a Republican-backed effort to impose broad new voting restrictions have tested positive for COVID-19 and are quarantined, the Texas House’s Democratic Caucus director said Saturday.
One lawmaker tested positive Friday and the other two did so on Saturday, according to caucus director Phillip Martin. All three were fully vaccinated against the disease, according to Martin, who declined to release their names or conditions to “respect the privacy of Members and their personal health.”
More than 50 Texas lawmakers arrived in Washington on Monday after leaving their home state on a private charter flight. They received criticism from Republicans and others after a photo showed them maskless on the plane, though federal pandemic guidelines don’t require masks to be worn on private aircraft.
Rep. Chris Turner, the caucus chairman, said in a statement that the caucus was conferring with health experts in Texas for additional guidance.
“This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions,” Turner said.
COVID-19 infections in people who have been fully vaccinated against the disease — also referred to as “breakthrough” infections — are rare, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Democrats left the state to deny the Republican-controlled Legislature the necessary quorum to pass a bill that would place new restrictions on voting in Texas.
Members of the caucus met with Vice President Kamala Harris, including two of the three lawmakers who tested positive, Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders said a statement on Twitter.
“Based on the timeline of these positive tests, it was determined the Vice President and her staff present at the meeting were not at risk of exposure because they were not in close contact with those who tested positive and therefore do not need to be tested or quarantined,” Sanders wrote.
“The Vice President and her staff are fully vaccinated,” according to Sanders.
Martin said it is not known where or when the three Texas lawmakers were infected.
“We don’t know. In order to be on the plane everybody had to be fully vaccinated,” according to Martin.
Members of the group also met with Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, but none of the three infected attended that meeting and Schumer’s office has been notified of the positive tests, according to Martin.
Turner said the White House was also notified.
Texas House Speaker Dade McPhelan, a Republican, issued a statement saying he and his wife were praying for the health and safety of the sick lawmakers.
“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 wrote.
Miller reported from Oklahoma City.