State senator test positive for COVID-19 as Legislature gathers in Tallahassee

Florida State Senator seeks changes to unemployment benefits amid coronavirus fallout
Florida State Senator seeks changes to unemployment benefits amid coronavirus fallout

TALLHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Senate Rules Committee chairwoman Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, announced Sunday she tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t attend committee meetings in person this week.

In a letter to members, Passidomo wrote that while she has had only “mild, cold-like symptoms,” she will remain isolated at home, participating in briefings, hearings and meetings by phone.

“In anticipation of the upcoming committee hearings & other meetings in Tallahassee this week, I took a Covid-19 test on Thursday 1/7. I learned this morning that the result of the test is positive,” Passidomo, who is slated to become Senate president in 2022, tweeted.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, also tested postive for COVID-19 in December.

This week, lawmakers are holding the first of five weeks of committee meetings in advance of the 2021 session, which will begin March 2. The Senate is requiring members, staff and the news media to be tested for COVID-19 ahead of the meetings. The Senate also has limited access to meetings, setting up an off-site area -- the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center -- where the public can view and participate in meetings amid the pandemic. The civic center is a couple of blocks from the Capitol.

The House is using an online registration system for people who want to provide “substantive testimony” and for members of the press. Seating in committee rooms has been described as being available on a “first-come, first-served basis.”

Expanded seating capacity for “on-site virtual testimony” will be available “on certain issues of great public significance and when scheduling allows.”