Updated Dec. 18: Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced Friday that because of the increase in COVID-19 cases at the Capitol, they will move the start of the Legislative session from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11. This story has been updated to reflect that.
Since the start of the legislative session last Monday, the Senate and Assembly have sent more than half-a-dozen memos to employees, notifying them of Capitol workers who tested positive for COVID-19.
The most recent from the Senate carried an all-caps, bolded message at the top: “PLEASE DO NOT LET THE FREQUENCY OF THESE NOTIFICATIONS LEAD YOU TO STOP READING THEM.”
In a memo sent Wednesday, officials notified staff that two more Capitol employees — one in the Assembly and another with the Department of General Services — tested positive for the virus.
During the first week of session, alerts became a daily routine in the Senate.
“I have sent notifications every day this week, totaling nine cases in just five days,” Senate Secretary Erika Contreras wrote in a memo sent last Friday. “Again, this is a serious matter, which cannot be mitigated and will not improve without our immediate attention and our full cooperation.”
Both chambers have instructed employees who can work remotely to do so immediately, though the memos acknowledge some essential workers can only do their jobs from the Capitol. District offices are also shuttered.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have enacted safeguards and protocols to keep everyone as safe as possible, and we will modify or enhance those measures if needed,” Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins wrote in an emailed statement. “California is in the midst of a surge in COVID cases that cuts across all professions and workplaces, socioeconomic status, and communities — we all must continue to do what we can to mitigate the spread of this horrible virus, especially right now, when the holidays are upon us.”
The Capitol’s existing protocols include temperature checks, social distancing and plexiglass dividers where employees conduct business. Lawmakers may also participate in some proceedings virtually.
“Those protocols will remain in place as long as is needed to protect the health and safety of Members, staff, and the public,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in an emailed statement.
Lawmakers were scheduled to reconvene Jan. 4, but on Friday Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that because of the increase in COVID-19 cases at the Capitol, they will move the start of the Legislative session to Jan. 11.
Memos from both houses state that they are monitoring pandemic conditions and “will assess and adjust protocols as conditions warrant.”
The memos state that any “impacted areas” of the Capitol have been cleaned and individuals exposed to those who tested positive are instructed to quarantine.
Employees who tested positive include Department of General Services workers, an employee of the Assembly, a Senate district office staffer and a California Highway Patrol officer. CapRadio requested the total number of positive cases among Capitol employees, but the Assembly and Senate Rules committees could not immediately provide a specific number. The request is being processed as a Legislative Open Records Act request.
Members met in person earlier in the month to be sworn in. The Senate met in its chambers, while the Assembly gathered at the Golden 1 Center, which offered more space for physical distancing.
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