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L.A. lawmaker tests positive for COVID-19, forcing delay of Assembly legislative session

Assemblywoman Autumn Burke
Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey), seen here in 2019, announced on Twitter that she had tested positive for the coronavirus.
(Robert Gourley / Los Angeles Times)

California’s Assembly leader said Monday he will be delaying legislative hearings after a Los Angeles lawmaker tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the state Capitol to close so it could be disinfected.

The announcements came after Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Marina Del Rey) and four others who work in the building tested positive for the coronavirus, which likely spread as staffers and legislators met to pass the state budget in late June.

Burke said in a tweet Monday that she was told Friday that she had a “mask-to-mask” exposure to COVID-19 on June 26, when the Assembly met in person to pass the state budget. The Democratic lawmaker said she tested positive on Saturday.

“Currently, my daughter and I have no symptoms, but will be remaining in quarantine until released by a doctor,” Burke wrote on Twitter. Through a spokeswoman, Burke declined to comment further.

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The Capitol will be closed for one week while undergoing a deep cleaning, according to representatives of both the state Senate and Assembly.

In a letter to lawmakers, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said the confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Capitol will delay legislative hearings in the coming weeks. Lawmakers were scheduled to return from summer recess July 13 to finish the busy final weeks of the legislative session, which ends Aug. 31.

“I have instructed my staff to develop a schedule for hearings and other Assembly business that will allow us to conduct our work but minimize the days in the Capitol building,” Rendon wrote to lawmakers, according to a copy provided to The Times.

Rendon said in the letter that he did not yet know when the Assembly will resume its session.

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The Assembly has five confirmed cases, said John Casey, a spokesman for Rendon. Casey said the Assembly is not identifying if the five confirmed cases are lawmakers or staffers.

The Assembly announced June 22 the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the state Capitol after a staffer tested positive. That employee had minimal interactions with just one co-worker while wearing a mask, wrote Debra Gravert, the Assembly’s chief administrative officer, in an email to employees.

One Senate staffer tested positive last month, while two employees who work in district offices have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Legislature has taken unprecedented measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Both houses halted sessions in March to lessen the risk of the virus spreading in the Capitol. The Assembly returned May 4 and the Senate resumed May 11 in order to continue their legislative work and pass a budget, all while adhering to physical distancing and mask protocols.

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Staff and lawmakers were asked to take their temperatures at home and monitor their temperatures throughout the day.

In addition, anyone entering the Capitol was required to undergo health screenings and temperature checks. Elevators were limited to one person per ride and strict limits were established on in-person seating for public hearings.


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