Pregnant Arizona state lawmaker expresses concerns over lack of COVID-19 safety measures at State Capitol
As a new legislative session is set to start in Arizona, one pregnant state lawmaker is concerned over relaxed COVID-19 safety protocols at the State Capitol. This comes as Arizona is experiencing a surge in COVID cases. FOX 10’s Stephanie Bennett reports.
PHOENIX – Arizona state lawmakers are set to go back to work in the midst of a new surge in COVID-19 cases, and at least one lawmaker is worried about the lack of safety measures at the State Capital.
According to the latest information provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services, 15,850 news cases were reported on Jan. 9, and 69 more deaths from COVID-19 have been reported.
The latest numbers pushed the state’s totals since the pandemic began to 1,477,483 with 24,773 known deaths.
COVID measures being loosened at State Capitol
Amid the current surge in cases, the State Capitol is loosening its preventative measures, and that has left some lawmakers debating whether or not to return.
Currently, neither the State House nor the State Senate will require masks. Plastic shields around the lawmakers’ desks have been dismantled, and there will be no social distancing requirements. This stands in contrast to last year, when the State Legislature restricted public access, required facemasks, temperature checks, and allowed virtual participation.
Pregnant lawmaker expresses concern
Arizona State Representative Athena Salman
The lack of COVID-19 mitigation efforts has outraged State Rep. Athena Salman, who is nine months pregnant, with a due date of Jan. 11.
“What I’m asking for is nothing new,” said State Rep. Salman. “What I’m asking for is a continuation of what we had last legislative session.”
State Rep. Salman blames State House Speaker Rusty Bowers for ignoring her request to work remotely.
“They are playing political games with my life, the life of my baby, and all Arizonans,” said State Rep. Salman.
State House Speaker responds
In response, State House Speaker Bowers said they are “trying to give some air of normalcy.”
“We know that things are spiking,” said State House Speaker Bowers.
State House Speaker Bowers said some legislators will be allowed to vote remotely, but only from their offices at the State Capitol, and only if granted permission by him. However, they will not be able to participate in debates or discussions about legislation.
Meanwhile, legislators who can’t come to the State Capitol because they are sick, or for any other reason, will not be able to vote remotely. State House Speaker Bowers said this is for security purposes.
“When I vote in a voting booth, I’m very secure, but if I’m on Zoom, it’s not secure,” said State House Speaker Bowers.
State House Speaker Bowers said masks are still welcome, and the building gets sanitized regularly. They can even accommodate other social distancing requests, but all lawmakers need to be at least in the building.
“We have two members, one who is pregnant, one is with a new child. We have made accommodations in one case when asked for maternity leave. We said granted. They asked that we make replacements on committees, granted name the replacements. Now they ask if they would be able to Zoom from home, can’t do it,” said State House Speaker Bowers.
For now, it appears there won’t be any changes made before the new session, which is set to start on Jan. 10.
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