HELENA — A Republican state representative from Hamilton revealed late Thursday that he has tested positive for Covid-19 – the first state lawmaker to be known as infectious with the disease during the 2021 Legislature, which began Monday.
Rep. David Bedey came into contact with the virus before the Legislature began, said Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, who is likely to chair a newly created legislative panel that responds to virus-related events.
“We’re already reaching out and notifying those who have recently been in close contact with Rep. Bedey and are telling them to quarantine,” Ellsworth said. “I’m releasing Rep. Bedey’s name because he wanted to be as transparent as possible.”
Bedey serves on the House Appropriations Committee, which has already been meeting this week.
The announcement came on the evening before the Legislative Leadership Covid-19 Response Panel holds its first meeting on Friday. The panel is an eight-person committee created by Republicans to respond to Covid-19 crises at the 2021 Legislature.
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, D-Helena, a member of the panel, said in a statement that she appreciates Bedey’s openness and hopes he remains asymptomatic and in good health.
However, she said it is “deeply frustrating” that a legislator tested positive before the Legislature established procedures to deal with an outbreak – something that Democrats repeatedly suggested the Legislature do, but were rebuffed by majority Republicans.
“When the Covid-19 panel meets (Friday), I will be demanding that my colleagues finally take seriously the responsibility we have to keep the Capitol safe and protect communities and local economies across the state.”
Bedey said he continues to believe that the most effective way to serve at the 2021 session is in-person, but that he has “a duty to my colleagues to do what I can to promote their safety.”