At least four Florida lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19 since July, leading to questions about how the 2021 legislative session might function in a COVID-19 environment.
The session begins March 2, 2021.
On Saturday, Rep. Chris Latvala announced on Facebook that he had tested positive for COVID-19. He’s a Republican that represents part of Pinellas County.
“Yesterday, 3,197 Floridians tested positive for Covid-19. I was one of them,” Latvala’s Facebook post says.
He continued: “My symptoms vary. This pandemic is not over but we will get through it. Keep wearing masks, social distancing, and washing your hands frequently.”
The start of the COVID-19 crisis in Florida begin at the tail end of the 2020 Legislative session. At one point, the entire chamber of the House of Representatives had to be cleared for cleaning after five lawmakers learned they had been around someone who had tested positive, reported WCTV.
That prompts questions about whether more lawmakers will get positive COVID-19 results and what the 2021 legislative session will look like. Will it be over video conference platforms such as Zoom or will it be in-person using social distance protocols?
The Phoenix reached out to the communication team for the Florida Senate to get an idea if any of these conversations are happening now. As of writing, they have not responded.
State Rep. Shevrin Jones was the first to announce his COVID-19 positive status online July 6. He is a Democrat representing part of Broward County. Jones used his social media posts to update his constituents on his symptoms and called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to impose a mask mandate statewide.
Jones recently made headlines for getting turned away from donating plasma after recovering from COVID-19, which has been recommended to donate COVID-19 antibodies. He speculates that he was turned away for being an openly gay man, the Sun Sentinel reports.
State Rep. Randy Fine tested positive for COVID-19 and also used social media to provide updates. In one tweet, he shared an X-ray image of his lungs, and said that he is suffering from 30% lung damage due to the virus. He was able to donate his plasma for COVID-19 antibodies, according to a video from ClickOrlando.
Sen. Rob Bradley — Republican representing Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion county — also tested positive for COVID-19 near the end of July. On August 10, he mentioned he was “feeling better” in a tweet and has not mentioned his symptoms on social media since then.
The three representatives face elections in November. Before his COVID-19 announcement, Latvala was seen at a campaign event for his reelection, standing in a crowd of supporters wearing masks, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Representative Fine is also seeking reelection for his position in the House.
Representative Jones is running for state Senate District 35, to represent part of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Senator Bradley has termed out of his position in the Senate and is not running in the 2020 election. But his wife Jennifer Bradley, a Republican, will be on the ballot in November, in the District 5 state senate race, according to state elections officials.