The legislative session ends in three days now, that’s shorter than the amount of time someone should quarantine under CDC standards if they have COVID-19, so how are lawmakers coping?
Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, started experiencing symptoms two weeks ago and tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily the session wasn’t scheduled until last Tuesday, but that was still within the quarantine period.
Anwar didn’t want to miss a vote so he was able to vote remotely Tuesday and Wednesday from a jail cell in the basement of the Legislative Office Building.
“I was all alone in COVID jail,” Anwar said. “I voted without interacting with any other human being.”
He said he actually got to listen to the debate on solitary confinement while he was just outside a jail cell.
Anwar, who is also a doctor, said he’s been obsessive with his mask and has avoided social gatherings knowing that the end of the legislative session is important because it’s when the bulk of the legislation is passed.
“Each and every Senator is either a chair or a ranking member and if you’re a chair and you don’t bring the bills out, the bills die,” Anwar said.
That’s why the Senate has been cautious. The third floor where the state Senate is located is still closed to the public and the chamber is mostly empty during debates.
“It’s a highly infectious virus,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to be careful to try and avoid it.”
Connecticut’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 8.92% last Thursday.
At nearly 9%, House Speaker Matt Ritter said the building would be closed last year at this time if the positivity rate was that high with the earlier variants. He said it’s really the number of hospitalizations.
As of today there are 233 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
“If we ever got back to 2,000 people in the hospital we’d be having a different conversation,” he said.
Ritter said everybody who’s had it this session has had mild symptoms.
“A lot of people have colds including myself, I’m testing every day,” Ritter said.
Rep. David Michel, D-Stamford, spent a day voting from his car. Michel contracted the virus at a trade show in New York.
He said they brought him wifi and electricity, but he ended up missing a vote when the wifi went out.
He said people could be more careful about COVID protocol. He said vaccinated people can still spread the virus, but maybe feel protected and don’t wear a mask.
“I pushed for stricter standards but they go by CDC recommendations,” Michel said. “Testing for me sounds more logical.”
Unlike the third floor, the second floor where the House is located is open and the lobbyists are stalking lawmakers in their masks behind the velvet ropes.
Ritter said if a lawmaker tested positive today they would allow them to vote from their car or find them an isolated area, like the jail cells in the basement of the LOB.
“I’m really happy people have been as responsible as they’ve been,” Ritter said.
In the House chamber, most of the members do not wear their masks in the chamber, but throw it on after they leave the chamber if they wear them at all.