Senate leaders have reinstituted masking and COVID testing requirements this week in response to a number of cases among members of the chamber in the final days of this year’s legislative session.
Beginning Tuesday, guests and visitors will be required to wear masks on the third floor of the state Capitol building where the Senate is located, as well as in the fourth-floor gallery overlooking the chamber. Meanwhile, senators and legislative staff will take rapid COVID tests and will be encouraged, but not required, to wear a mask if they test negative.
Senate President Martin Looney announced the changes in an email Monday night.
“Due to a number of positive COVID tests in the Senate over the past few days we have put in place some additional measures to ensure the Senate continues to operate effectively,” Looney said.
Looney said that Senate Republicans had been consulted on the additional precautions, which leaders plan to reevaluate on Thursday. A spokesman for Senate Democrats declined on Tuesday to specify how many COVID cases had surfaced among senators and staff.
However, in a Twitter post over the holiday weekend, Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, wrote that he had tested positive for the virus.
“I had a good run. Unfortunately, last night I tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time,” Lesser wrote. “Symptoms so far are minor. Isolating and taking anti-viral medication.”
So far, House leaders are not considering similar precautions on the second floor. During a morning press briefing, House Speaker Matt Ritter said his members had not recently reported any COVID cases.
“If that changes then we’ll re-evaluate,” Ritter said. “Fingers crossed. So far, so good. People did test over the weekend who might have had exposure to some of the people who do have it and so far we’ve been fortunate in that nobody else has tested positive.”
The Senate cases come as lawmakers prepare to enter the busy final week of the legislative session with plenty of work left to be done. Both chambers must approve of a two-year state budget proposal before the session ends next Wednesday at midnight.