Only 2 COVID-19 cases in NC General Assembly despite claims of more, officials say

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) has been released from the hospital after being treated for COVID-19, Speaker Tim Moore’s office said Monday.

However, despite rumors of “multiple” COVID-19 cases involving people at the Legislative Building, officials told CBS 17 Monday they only know of two such cases among the General Assembly.

Rep. Deb Butler (D-New Hanover) tweeted Sunday, “I have it on pretty good authority there are multiple cases of COVID in #NCGA, staffers and members. It is imperative that full, complete, unfettered and accurate information be shared with all employees, members and legislative staff. Anything short of that is criminal.”

Butler’s legislative assistant said she was unavailable for an interview Monday.

Demi Dowdy, a spokesperson for Moore, said the only case she’s been made aware of was that of Rep. Kidwell.

Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble said Monday he’s also received a report of a vaccinated staff member at the legislative building testing positive. A spokesperson for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said that involves a staff member in his office, and that person is under quarantine.

“We are not aware of a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases at the NCGA as suggested by Rep. Butler’s tweet. We have had a few questions concerning possible exposures of individuals away from the NCGA and one individual who delayed starting a new position because they tested positive prior to beginning work,” Coble wrote in an email to CBS 17.

He said his office does not report individual people’s medical conditions, citing privacy concerns.

“There is no COVID-19 outbreak in the Senate. We are only aware of two cases in the General Assembly, including a vaccinated member of our staff who is quarantining. Since the beginning of the pandemic, anyone who has been identified as a close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is notified and provided resources for how to get tested and any potential quarantine procedures,” said Lauren Horsch, spokeswoman for Sen. Berger. “Rumormongering on Twitter is not a responsible activity for an elected official. Rep. Butler should divulge what information she’s using to make her claims or stop spreading gossip.”

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) said Monday it’s been a struggle throughout the pandemic to get accurate information about cases at the legislature.

“The only way I learn about people who are positive for COVID are when journalists like yourself report this on social media or on the news,” he said. “I’m just very frustrated with the lack of any real information about what’s happening with the North Carolina General Assembly. This is my place of work.”

The legislature is not adopting a policy being implemented by Gov. Roy Cooper (D) that requires state employees under his authority to get vaccinated or get tested for COVID-19 regularly.

Raleigh has reinstated a mandate to wear masks indoors. It does not apply to state buildings. When Gov. Cooper implemented the statewide mandate last year, it did not apply to the legislature.

In recent days, Democrats have resumed wearing masks while Republicans largely have not.

“It’s a health concern. It’s a crisis. We don’t want any members to become ill, but we don’t want any members to infect others or their families,” said Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham). “Transparency, openness, needs to happen.”

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