Senator tests positive for virus, leaves legislative session - Albuquerque Journal

Senator tests positive for virus, leaves legislative session

Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, speaks on the House floor in this January 2019 file photo. Gonzales, who served in the House before being appointed to the Senate in December 2019, said Thursday he tested positive for COVID-19 during a special legislative session and is currently self-isolating at his home. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – State Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales acknowledged Thursday having tested positive for COVID-19 during the ongoing special legislative session on redistricting.

Gonzales, a Democrat from Ranchos de Taos, said he was tested before meeting with a tribal governor this week and got a positive result.

He said he immediately informed Senate leadership and then made the roughly 80-minute drive home, where he is self-isolating.

In addition, Gonzales said he was experiencing only minor symptoms but was planning to seek monoclonal antibody treatment to reduce possible future symptoms.

“It did come as a surprise,” Gonzales said in a telephone interview.

He also said he was not sure exactly how he was exposed to COVID-19, saying, “We’re around a lot of people; it’s hard to say.”

Under Senate rules adopted for the special session, members who test positive for COVID-19 are required to inform their caucus leaders. But the rules do not allow such legislators to participate in floor debates or votes remotely.

The rules do allow members of the chamber who are close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to continue attending floor sessions in person if they are fully vaccinated and test negative.

Gonzales said he was hopeful the rules could be suspended or changed to allow him to participate from his Taos County home.

Meanwhile, all visitors for the special session are required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter the Roundhouse, though that requirement does not apply to legislators.

However, Gonzales said he is fully vaccinated and recently got a booster shot. He also said he had previously tested negative for COVID-19 after meeting with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other legislators in the run-up to the special session.

It was unclear Thursday how the positive case would impact the special session, as contact tracing protocols were being followed to identify possible exposures and next steps.

Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, in remarks on the House floor, said individuals determined to be close contacts by state Department of Health officials were notified by Thursday afternoon.

“Despite all our efforts and vaccinations and masks, it’s still here,” Egolf said, referring to the virus that has claimed the lives of 5,459 New Mexico residents since the first death was reported in March 2020.

At the beginning of Thursday’s meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, urged people to remain calm and seek out guidance from legislative staff or DOH officials if they had concerns about possible exposure.

The committee then started its usual schedule of presentations on budget matters.

But the news of the positive test result did prompt Navajo Nation officials to say during a Thursday committee hearing they planned to return home as a precautionary step.

The special session began Monday and could run through next week.

Journal Capitol Bureau reporter Dan McKay contributed to this report.

 

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