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Idaho senators warned of possible COVID-19 exposure

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Lawmakers in the Idaho Senate have been told to monitor their health after a Senate staffer tested positive for COVID-19, but that the Senate will continue operating, a leading state lawmaker said Tuesday.

Senate President Pro-Tem Chuck Winder said that the staffer was infected by a family member outside the Statehouse and went to work Friday with no symptoms.

“She was here after that exposure for a short period of time,” Winder said in an interview, noting he didn’t have contact with the staffer on Friday, but did at other times. “I know that she was wearing a mask when I saw her.”

Winder declined to name the staffer. He said she tested positive on Saturday, and that senators received the warning on Monday. The staffer is at home without symptoms, he said.

The warning to senators about possible exposure was first reported by the Idaho Press.

The Senate would be unable to operate without staffers if an outbreak occurs among them, Winder said.

Senators who get sick can name substitutes and most senators wear masks when around staffers, though many don’t wear masks on the Senate floor or in committee meetings, Winder said.

“The bigger issue gets to be we’ll have more difficulty replacing staff if we have an outbreak in our staff,” he said.

Republican Gov. Brad Little has suggested that the Legislature delay its session, which started Jan. 11, until more people have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Democrats in the House and Senate requested a delay to the session. But Republican lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Legislature have said there is too much pressing business.

They have also made plans for recessing in the event of a widespread outbreak.

Some committees have also been taking the unusual procedure of alternating the chairmanship, apparently to keep legislative business moving if a committee chair is forced out by COVID-19.

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