State Senate Swearing In Event Canceled After Reps. Test Positive For COVID-19

Friday, November 13th 2020, 5:12 pm


An Oklahoma state Senate swearing in ceremony was canceled after lawmakers on the House side tested positive for COVID-19.

Rep. Kevin Wallace from Chandler and Rep. Tammy Townley from Ardmore both tested positive.

Masks were hit and miss at a state Capitol where members of the state House of Representatives were sworn in on Wednesday.

The state Capitol building is exempt from the Oklahoma City mask mandate.

Wallace tested positive before the swearing in.

He said in a statement:

“I did not participate in the Oath of Office ceremonies or take my oath with any other members. The Oath of Office was administered to me individually under CDC guidelines.”

Meanwhile, Townley tested positive after the ceremony.

She said in a statement:

“I was very surprised to have a positive result, given my prior positive test for antibodies. I immediately notified House leadership and am participating in contact tracing efforts.”

The day of the swearing in, Townley also celebrated Veterans Day without a mask.

Frustration over a lack of notice to lawmakers spilled over on social media. Many lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, said they learned about the possible exposure from the Tulsa World instead of House leadership.

“It was certainly a shock to learn on Twitter that members had COVID, but the big takeaway from this situation is that all Oklahomans need to continue to take this pandemic seriously,” Virgin said in a statement.

Both Reps. Wallace and Townley said they are asymptomatic and are doing well.

The Senate ceremony will now be conducted in small groups in the Senate chambers where masks are strongly encouraged and social distancing will be observed, according to a state Senate spokesman.