Legislator COVID-19 panel meets for first time after Rep. tests positive

HELENA - The first known Montana lawmaker has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Representative David Bedey of Hamilton revealed he had tested positive Thursday. 

On Friday, the Legislative Leadership COVID-19 Response Panel met to discuss what action, if any, they would take to the positive test. 

The panel enacted measures to strongly suggest mask-wearing inside the capitol, but still stopped short of requiring legislators to wear them at all times while in the building.

The panel met for just over two hours and did adopt guidelines that will require wearing a mask when on the first floor in the legislative staff or legislative audit areas.

During the second hour of the meeting, citizens from around the state took turns criticizing how COVID-19 is being handled at the capitol, including this passionate testimony from a citizen in Whitefish.

"It's unconscionable to me that as chairperson of this committee that you can't say we're gonna mandate a mask mandate and continue the guidelines of the previous administration, because they are working!” Joan Vetter Ehrenberg of Whitefish said. “You're gonna just throw it all out the window?"

Legislators also are required to participate remotely if they are experiencing symptoms or awaiting test results, and notify party leadership immediately if they have tested positive.

Ellsworth is hoping to have guidance that is more specific on issues like contact tracing, which was addressed in today's meeting by Legislative Services Executive Director Susan Fox.

"They will be contact tracing,” Fox said. “You know, it's not like we have to wait until that person is hired, that's for the dedicated one, but the contact tracing for example, for Rep. Bedey will be occurring without this agreement. But once we have the agreement, we will have a dedicated contact tracer."

The panel will meet again next Tuesday at the same time and place, as they continue to try to figure out how things will proceed.

As of now, Rep. Bedey is not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and is self-isolating from the capital while participating remotely.

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