Rep. Brian Smih slammed PA Republicans for covering up a member's COVID infection while he worked with Democrats before they voted to re-open the state.

PA Rep. slams Republicans for COVID cover-up as “height of grotesque partisanship”

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Scott speaks with Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims who released an emotional video calling out repugnant Republican state legislators who exposed elected officials on both sides of the aisle to the deadly coronavirus and shockingly hid their COVID infections from the Democratic caucus, of which Sims is a member. Rep. Sims’ clarion call isn’t about politics or partisanship, it’s about life. He literally caught Pennsylvania’s House Republicans lying to their colleagues about being infected with coronavirus while doing their own contact tracing in their own caucus and then casting a vote to re-open Pennsylvania right now. Rep. Sims gave us an update on the status of those efforts and their absurdity.

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As a party, the actions Democrats have taken during the COVID19 epidemic in America show that they’ve claimed the true mantle of this country’s “pro-life party” Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims personifies the efforts of elected Democrats at all levels to protect the lives of all of their fellow Americans and his patriotism practically bleeds through the speakers of this evocative interview.

Here is a transcript of our interview edited for form and clarity.

Scott Dworkin: I’m here with Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims. He told a stomach-churning story about the dangers of working during the Coronavirus epidemic in America with callous coworkers without regard for the lives or health of others. After a Republican state rep. Knowingly exposed him and colleagues from both sides of the aisle to the deadly infectious disease that is shut down America. Representative Sims. Thanks for taking the time today. 

Rep. Brian Sims: How are you? you know, I’m a little tired. We, we left the house floor pretty late last night after, after what was a very heated day. I’m healthy and I’m okay. I’m just still pretty angry. 

Scott Dworkin: Understandably so. You know, I would be as well, and your constituents across Pennsylvania that I’ve spoken with, have been infuriated by this, because: what else would they potentially be hiding? How is the state of Pennsylvania coping with the coronavirus crisis? From what you’re seeing out there is it’s a curve flattening? How are things working for you? 

Rep. Brian Sims: The curve is flattening. I am very lucky to live in a state that has not only a governor that is incredibly experienced and a very good leader but also the kind of leader that knows that he needs to rely on experts. And in this case, I mean, Pennsylvania has perhaps the most qualified Secretary of Health in the United States, a woman named Rachel Levine.

Between, the two of them they have done a really- you know, we have also had rallies in our Capitol to open back up- and you know, obviously there is a lot of frustration and a lot of fear going on, as, as evidenced by the what I think is the criminal behavior of my Republican colleagues. But the state as a whole is doing well. We’re doing better than our neighbors, to the North, our neighbor to the East. And in part, it’s because, despite this frustration, we are following the orders of our governor. 

Scott Dworkin: So walk us through what happened with Rep Lewis. He’s the Republican state Rep who went to work in Harrisburg while he was infected with the coronavirus. How’d you first find out he was a disease carrier, and when did you figure out GOP statehouse leadership knew he was sick, but still exposed him to other electeds?

Rep. Brian Sims: We actually found out on Monday [when] a reporter who had learned that a Republican member of the House caucus had tested positive and that other members were being quarantined. A reporter actually approached one of the members of Democratic leadership to ask their comments and their thoughts on it.

And that was the first that we had heard about it at all; and there are 203 members of the state House. We’re the most gerrymandered state left in the United States, although there’s a little over a million more  Democrats in Pennsylvania, Republicans control our house and our Senate because of that gerrymander. And, you know, we see a lot of what I consider very wicked legislation; a lot of antithetical legislation to Pennsylvania’s values. But I don’t think that any of us thought that our Republican leadership would hide the fact that we’d been exposed to a deadly global pandemic. That doesn’t have any treatment; that doesn’t have a vaccine.

And that’s what happened. We, we learned about this, we approached our leadership approaches their leadership, and I’m told that initially, their leadership wouldn’t confirm anything. Eventually, they did confirm that one person had tested positive. We learned later in the day that he announced that he had tested positive, but their math was a wreck. We believe that they notified three members that sat near that member on his last day in session because none of them were in the building. And one by one. We’re sort of learning that they were all quarantined as well. But the math here just doesn’t add up. This member was on the house floor on the fourth, fifth, and sixth and the 11th to 12th and 13th of May, while presumably infected and infectious.

And what our Republican leadership did is they said, well, his last day in the Capitol was the 14th, and we grabbed a couple of people that sat near him on the 14th and quarantine them. And we didn’t need to tell you about that. And that’s that. And, not only is that, incredibly egregious and dangerous. That’s not contact tracing. Contact tracing is something that’s performed by trained professionals, and in this case, I think what we saw was this sort of callous indifference to the lives of coworkers, ignoring the parties we’re coworkers. We all go to work in the same building together. In theory, we’re all trying to advance the values and the safety of Pennsylvanians and to know that they exposed us without telling us. And the worst part of this is, is that they learned on the 20th of May. That was right before we all went home for the holiday weekend. They learned on the 20th of May that we had all been exposed and that the last day of that exposure was the 14th. Well, when you have an incubation period of two to 14 days, seven days into that was the middle of the incubation period. And rather than tell all of us as we were heading home for the holidays to see families and friends and neighbors, they decided to keep quiet about it. And we didn’t discuss [it] until we got back.  

Scott Dworkin: That’s insane. I mean, so I just want to map this out for everybody. so you know, there’s, the holiday weekend, but you guys were never notified by the by leadership. 

Rep. Brian Sims: We still really haven’t been notified of much; what we do know, it’s because we, we learned to ask the exact right question. Yesterday on the house floor, Republicans were telling us that they couldn’t tell us more because it’s a HIPAA violation.  I’m an attorney that has worked in healthcare.

HIPAA is, is incredibly not applicable here. Also, HIPAA doesn’t protect the fact of a diagnosis, even if it did protect the individual. that’s. How contact tracing works. Anybody who lives in a major city that has a, a department of health has, understands how, how contact tracing works and that our Republican colleagues, and I’ll tell you part of the reason why, and maybe this is mental health. People understand. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania has tried since day one to open back up the state and to do away with the governor’s order to close it. I will tell you that there’s not a single medical doctor in the Pennsylvania legislature, so it’s not a matter of subverting their medical opinions for our own medical opinion. It’s subverting the expert opinion of a Harvard trained secretary of health for the opinions of a whole bunch of failed business owners. That is the number one criteria of the Pennsylvania general assembly; it is to have failed a business. And my Republican colleagues are chock filled with failed business owners.

And I don’t think that any of us. Any of us thought that they would put that interest above the interest of our own lives. But these same members, many of these same members who are out on quarantine or this member that tested positive, they have helped lead the charge for opening up the general assembly. A guy named Russ Diamond, who is out on quarantine. We’re hearing that he’s actually tested positive and doesn’t want to tell anybody. He has announced that he’s on quarantine but won’t get tested. He has tried to lead the charge for opening up the legislature, and he wasn’t even on the floor yesterday as that resolution came up, because he was home quarantining 

Scott Dworkin: The [Pennsylania] House Speaker Mike Turzai, he knew and didn’t tell you guys about it. 

Rep. Brian Sims: You know, this is one of the complicated things he said yesterday that he didn’t know and I believe that to be a lie. He is the speaker of the house. I, there are political parties and the majority party gets to name the speaker,  and that 11 weeks into a global pandemic, multiple members of theirs would, would get tested or go on quarantine, would not be on the House floor that the Speaker of the House, the head Republican, wouldn’t know that his own members were- and that we hear that the Republican party even reviewed video of this particular member on the floor. So that they could figure out which other of their own members and they needed to notify but not ours. As I said to him yesterday, that is either the grossest dereliction of your duty as a leader, or it’s just a flat lie.

Actually, I think it’s a mix of both. He seems like the kind of person that, that, is at least I’d thought, he seemed like the kind of person that if he knew something like this was happening, would, would speak up, would voice up. I thought he had those kinds of values, but he clearly did not. 

Scott Dworkin: And, just to be clear, you call on him to resign right? 

Rep. Brian Sims: Yeah. Mike Turzai needs to resign. I believe that what he did was criminal. I believe that a full-blown investigation needs to happen. If this had happened in any other business, anywhere; if somebody went to work at a grocery store and their mid manager had tested positive for COVID and was walking around and the management knew and decided not to tell anybody and pretended that it was because they didn’t want to violate a, HIPAA rule or something. They would be, they would be charged with endangerment. And I think that’s what the Speaker of the House did. And what was so disappointing about this, is that, you know, he’s been a, he’s been a really bad speaker of the house where Pennsylvania.

We’re a gerrymandered state, and so we should have democratic leadership, but he’s been an aggressively bad speaker of the house, not just at the legislation that he supports;  but how he manages his own colleagues, how he manages the House of Representatives. I’m sort of shocked that a person like him was selected as Speaker, but I did not believe that a colleague would be so, so Craven as to put the lives of a hundred of us and all of our families and all of our staffs at risk for, for very shallow partisan politics. This is the height of grotesque partisanship. 

Scott Dworkin: As a lawyer, you might know, is it illegal? For someone to knowingly carry a deadly disease into the workplace. Is there anything that can be done? You had mentioned… 

Rep. Brian Sims: It’s a complicated scenario, right? Given what we know about HIV transmission and how some States have criminalized HIV transmission, sort of knowingly transmitting versus unknowingly transmitted. I think the sort of the door is still open for the various ways that we’re going to view this through a legal lens. But I don’t think it takes a judge or a lawyer to say that if you have knowingly exposed your colleagues to a deadly disease and not told them that you have done wrong by them, and I think that action is criminal. 

Scott Dworkin: Just connecting some more dots here. Do you think Trump’s rapid, rampant, kind of corruption sends the message to Republicans everywhere that coverups like this are okay? Or even if one of his party’s officials threatens the health and well being of others. I mean, that’s what this does. Do you think that Trump is helping them excuse their actions?

Rep. Brian Sims: Very much so. you know, that they’re there. The Trumpian streak, if you will, in the, in the Pennsylvania general assembly is strong, even though it is a minority, even among the Republican party. But people like Russ diamond, who is, who was introduced in this legislation, and who is, while he is actually going to end, is an incredibly Trumpy and member of our legislature. His ex-wife and his last girlfriend filed a protection from abuse orders against him. 

If that’s not Trumpian, I don’t know what is.

Scott Dworkin: Republicans joined some Dems. There were a few who voted late last night to end the statewide business shut down. Will this actually do anything? Will it actually progress? 

Rep. Brian Sims: If you talk about political theater, you talk about grandstanding is that after two days of learning that our Republican colleagues had put all of us in grave danger of contracting a pandemic. They then voted to shut down the governor’s order closing the state. What’s ironic about that is they not only don’t have the experience or the knowledge to be able to counter the experience and knowledge of our public health professionals, they don’t have the authority to do it either. I brought that up last night on the floor as they were trying to pass this resolution. All of these people that had just hidden the fact that they were testing positive, that they were quarantined, while they were simultaneously arguing that it was safe for everybody to be back out on the street, to go back to work and go, get your hair cut, go get your dog groomed; while they themselves were testing positive and covering that up.

There again, I keep coming back to the idea that, that this isn’t, this isn’t about politics; this is about the sort of wicked nature of bad people. So, yeah, they, they did it. Thing yesterday that was purely performative; and that was, they passed a resolution saying that the governor’s order to keep the state close should be lifted. And like I said, they don’t have the experience. They don’t have the knowledge, they don’t have the values or the ethics or the authority to do that. And yet they thought that that was a good use of our time. After being exposed to exposing us to COVID19.

Scott Dworkin: I figure that anybody who’s rushing to reopen or pushing against masks doesn’t want us to reopen. I mean, it’s the reverse kind of thing. It’s like if you press against masks. Then you do it to spread the virus.  For the President of the United States and you act like it’s not cool and people trust you and they’re like, ‘Well, Trump’s fine with not wearing it.’ Millions of people are not going to wear masks. As you saw on Memorial day weekend, we’re going to pay a price for that.  There’s already an uptick. 

Rep. Brian Sims: We’re going to pay a price for it.

Scott Dworkin: Yes, and it exists. It’s not a hoax. 

Rep. Brian Sims: There’s also the self-interest in all of this, which is hard. Hard to ignore. I said that you know, the number one criterion among my Republican colleagues is to be a failure, is to have failed business, but many of them still have businesses, including Rep. Lewis, a colleague of ours who has tested positive. He produced legislation and opening back up the state and he’s voted to open back up the state and voted to open back up his own industry  in which he’s a business owner 

Scott Dworkin: So, what do you think happens next in Pennsylvania? What can people do to help out the fight, and what you’re doing and calling out the legislature, and also pushing things forward in a positive way. Like how, how can people help out?

Rep. Brian Sims: There’s a couple of different things that people can do. One is there are a number of organizations. Pennsylvania, despite being gerrymandered, we’re right on the cusp of being able to take back the house and the Senate. organizations like turn, PA blue. Organizations that are focusing on picking districts, in the suburbs, for example, that are 51/49; those kinds of things. We have an opportunity in the next election cycle perhaps to finally pass legislation that will end gerrymandering. There’s an organization called Fair Districts PA, and I hope people will support those organizations. 

But really the best thing that we can do is collectively demand the resignation of Speaker, Mike Turzai, a person that cravenly put his colleagues at risk, at, at mortal risk so that he could continue to lie, and the coverup that it is safe to be back out in, in the Commonwealth. The other thing that people can do, of course, is to support democratic colleagues around you. All four corners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have Democrats running for office. They’re good, they’re smart and this state deserves real, authentic, empathetic leadership. 

Scott Dworkin: Rep. Sims. I really appreciate everything you’re doing and your patriotism. And again, as I had mentioned before, you know, history is etched stone; and there’s a right side and a wrong side of this. And there’s no middle ground here. It takes a lot of guts to do what you’re doing, especially when there are so much propaganda and things going on right now, pushing against you. Keep on speaking out, keep on doing this, ’cause we need more people like you in this country. 

Rep. Brian Sims: Well, the good news is, in my experience, a ton of us. You know, they say that people who have never had to overcome anything, don’t know how to overcome anything. And that’s what I look at when I see Congress right now. I see a whole bunch of mostly straight CIS white men who haven’t had to deal with the hardship or the marginalization that is defining for so many Americans, but it’s also a part of their sort of stentorian nature.

I don’t see Americanism in them. I see Americanism and the people right now fighting back.

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