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General Assembly staffers to work from home after ‘small’ COVID-19 outbreak

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Many General Assembly employees will be working from home for the next two weeks after an undisclosed number of them tested positive for coronavirus, Target 12 has learned.

“Out of an abundance of caution, there will be a limited number of legislative staffers at the State House for the next two weeks, with all other employees working remotely,” House spokesperson Larry Berman and Senate spokesperson Greg Paré confirmed in a joint statement Monday night.

“This is an effort to limit the small number of COVID cases among staff in order to get back to normal by Monday, Aug. 17,” they continued.

Asked precisely how many Assembly employees have recently tested positive for COVID-19, Berman declined to provide an exact figure.

“A small number,” he said. “Nothing more specific.”

On Tuesday, a R.I. Department of Health spokesperson confirmed there have been “roughly five” recent COVID-19 cases associated with the General Assembly.

The General Assembly had the equivalent of 265.4 full-time employees during the 2018-19 fiscal year, with authorization for up to 295.5, budget documents show.

While the State House has been closed to the public since early in the pandemic, many legislative staffers have been spotted regularly working in the building, particularly since Gov. Gina Raimondo began her phased reopening plan.

While the full House and Senate haven’t met since mid-July, some legislative committees have continued to hold in-person hearings, including the powerful House Finance Committee last week.

All lawmakers are supposed to be called back to the State House at some point later this summer to finalize a new state budget, pending action in Congress to provide fiscal relief to states.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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