State Sen. Gary Farmer, former Senate Democratic Leader in the Florida Senate. Credit: Florida Senate
A top Democrat in the Florida Senate has tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed to a person in Tallahassee – the state capital where lawmakers have been convening this week for committee meetings leading up to the 2021 legislative session.
Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer, who represents part of Broward County, said he learned of his COVID-19 diagnosis Wednesday night and has been in quarantine at home since then.
“On Monday I tested negative for the virus via two different tests. A few hours after that test, I learned that I had been exposed to someone in Tallahassee who had tested positive. I immediately left the Capitol and have not returned since. Yesterday I retested, and very late last night I learned that I had tested positive,” Farmer said in a written statement.
“In accordance with CDC guidelines and Senate rules and protocols, I have been quarantining at home since Monday. However, I was not at any point in contact with anyone that would require anyone else to quarantine.”
Farmer said he was asymptomatic and urged people to continue following “the precautions medical experts have recommended,” as cases of the virus and the new, more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant continue to surge.
“Currently, in Leon County, the risk for infection from the coronavirus is ‘extremely high,’ with January 2021 the worst month for new cases, according to health statistics gathered by the New York Times. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that I’ve become one of those numbers,” he said.
The Florida Phoenix has been covering COVID-19 infections among members of the Florida Legislature since at least the summer. Those who became ill included State Reps. Randy Fine and Chris Latvala, and Shevrin Jones, who was a state House member at the time and is now in the Florida Senate. Jones was the first state lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19 in early July, documenting his experience with symptoms through Twitter.
In November, some lawmakers missed the Legislature’s organization session because they’d either tested positive for COVID or had been in contact with someone who had. Sen. Ray Rodrigues and Sen. Tom Wright were among those who contracted COVID.
The January committee meetings in the Senate have consisted of remote public testimonies at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to reduce the number of people in committee rooms.
Other protocols include social distancing, limiting in-person interactions, and regular COVID tests but not all lawmakers have been seen wearing masks during committee meetings.
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