Pennsylvania Democrats Claim Republicans Hid A House Member’s Coronavirus Diagnosis
- State Democrats in Pennsylvania are claiming that Republicans did not inform them that a Representative tested positive for COVID-19, and that others were isolating as a result.
- Many Democrats are outraged and feel their health was put in danger by the news not being shared with them. Some are calling for the Speaker of the House to resign.
- Democratic Rep. Brian Sims posted a viral rant calling Republicans “callous liars” who called for the government to reopen as they were potentially exposing their colleagues to the virus.
- Republicans have defended themselves, saying they notified those who came in contact with the state representative, and that they followed CDC guidelines.
Rep. Lewis Tests Positive
Democrats in Pennsylvania’s state legislature are claiming that Republicans hid the fact that representatives were self-quarantining after one tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Republican state Rep. Andrew Lewis announced that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on May 20, after getting tested two days prior. His last day in the state’s Capitol was May 14.
“I immediately began self-isolation protocol and contacted the House of Representatives, and our caucus Human Resources department. My last day in the Capitol was Thursday, May 14.” he said.
Lewis said that anyone who was in contact and potentially exposed to the virus was notified and asked to self-quarantine. He said he waited a week to disclose his diagnosis to the public “out of respect” for his family.
However, it allegedly was not just the public that learned of this news on Wednesday. Pennsylvania Democrats say they were also shocked to learn that one of their colleagues tested positive for the coronavirus and had been isolating for over a week.
“While we are pleased to learn that this House member seems to have recovered, it is simply unacceptable that some House Republicans knew about this for more than a week and sat on that knowledge,” Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said in a statement. “Knowing how House members and staff work closely together at the Capitol, we should have been made aware of this much sooner. We should not have learned of it from a media report.”
Dermody says that in the last two weeks, there were six days of voting at the Capitol and more than 15 meetings of House committees, meaning that people who had come to work in person were at risk of possible exposure.
Right now, Democrats are claiming that four members of the Repubican caucus went into self-quarantine as a result of their contact with Lewis. One of those caucus members was Rep. Russ Diamond, who has very openly criticized masks and other social distancing protocols. He has also led charges calling for the state to reopen.
In a statement, he said he canceled in-person meetings and began isolation as soon as he learned he was in contact with someone who was COVID-positive, though he did not know who that was at the time. But, according to Spotlight PA, earlier that day, he spoke before a House Committee without a mask to call for an end to the state of emergency Pennsylvania declared because of the virus.
Diamond says he has experienced no symptoms since he began isolating on May 21 and plans to go back to the capitol as soon as Thursday. He has not been tested for the virus, but claims his doctor told him a test would be unnecessary if he was not ill.
Democrats Say They Were Out of the Loop
Many Democrats were outraged that they were not notified that their colleagues were isolating and felt their health had been jeopardized. Rep. Kevin J. Boyle claimed that not disclosing this kind of information should be considered criminal.
This news also came on the same day the United State’s coronavirus death toll reached 100,000 people. In Pennsylvania alone there are 70,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths.
“Pennsylvanians are suffering greatly from this medical and financial catastrophe, and many of them are being asked to place the health and safety of others ahead of their own well-being,” wrote Rep. Dan Frankel. “I am horrified to learn that members of the General Assembly failed to do the right thing, at a time when so many Pennsylvanians are doing so in much more difficult situations.”
One of the most vibrant reactions came from Rep. Brian Sims, who went on a 12-minute viral rant on Facebook Live. He claimed that his republican colleagues cam to work so that they could “explain that it was safe to go back to work, it was safe to go back to race car driving or dog grooming or getting your haircut.”
“Meanwhile, what we’re learning is that during that time period, they were testing positive,” Sims continued. “They were notifying one another and they didn’t notify us. I just spent the better part of the past 11 weeks sitting across the room from people who would eventually test and decided not to tell us.”
He specifically referred to Diamond as being part of this mentality. Sims also claimed that this could have serious consequences. He said that Boyle has young children to go home to, and that he himself is vulnerable because he donated a kidney earlier this year, news he was not initially planning on making public right now.
“I didn’t donate my kidney to save somebody’s life so that I could die at the hands of Republicans who are being callous liars,” Sims said.
“How dare you. How dare you put our lives at risk,” Sims continued. “How dare you put our families at risk and pretend it was about looking out for your own. We know you’re looking out for your own.”
Sims, along with other Democrats, has been calling for Republican Speaker of the House Mike Turzai to resign over this, as well as anyone who knew about it.
Republicans Defend Protocol
Still, Republicans have defended themselves. Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Republicans, told the Washington Post that they followed CDC guidelines, as well as protocols from Pennsylvania’s Department of Health. They maintained that everyone needed to be notified because of direct contact was.
Lewis also addressed the concerns on a Facebook live stream Wednesday night. He said that in his final day at the Capitol, he was only in for a few hours and saw very few people. He also said he took measures to protect himself and others.
“One, I wore a mask. Two, I did not shake any hands,” Lewis said. “Three, it’s pretty much a ghost town at the capitol right now, the cafeteria is closed, so I only interacted with a handful of folks.”
Lewis also insisted that everyone he interacted with was notified. He said he was not aware of anyone else testing positive for the virus.
See what others are saying: (NBC 10) (Spotlight PA) (Washington Post)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.