DENVER — A Colorado Republican staffer who recently tested positive for coronavirus attended a session on the state House floor Monday morning, the first day of a special legislative session for lawmakers to provide pandemic-related aid, according to House Speaker K.C. Becker, D-Boulder.
Becker called the staffer's actions a "reckless breach of the House's safety protocols, and it will not be tolerated," but Republican leaders disputed Becker's claims, saying the staffer tested positive on Nov. 17 and has since been cleared to return to work.
The staffer "sought the advice of their physician and was given permission to return to work in person on the 24th of this month," Republican House Leader Hugh McKean said in a statement.
"The statement that this individual tested positive last week is in error, after consulting with the Aide and finding that the test was performed on November 17th and cleared to return to work in person on the 24th, there should be minimal concern about their condition," McKean said.
The Denver Post identified the staffer as Ellen Moroney, and said that Moroney posted about her COVID-19 diagnosis on Facebook on Nov. 24. Moroney was seen in a photograph on the House floor with a mask covering her mouth but not her nose, according to the Post's report.
Moroney posted to Facebook Monday evening with a photo showing an alleged doctor’s note saying she was cleared to return to work on Nov. 24, though the email appeared to have been dated with Monday’s date.
“I did not participate in the testing that was performed at the capitol this morning, as advised by my doctor,” Moroney wrote in the post. “I took her medical, scientific advice, that those who have had covid recently should not retest to confirm they are clear because they will get a positive test. I waited more additional time to return to work after being cleared by my doctor.”
Rep. Larry Liston, R-El Paso County, was also seen in the photograph not properly wearing a mask and instead wearing it on top of his head. Rep. Cathy Kipp, D-Larimer County, posted the photograph on Twitter.
Becker said the staffer was sent home and will not be allowed back at the Capitol until she tests negative.
Becker said Republicans' "dangerous disregard for simple and effective protections and this staffer's presence on the floor has placed the health of every lawmaker and member of staff at risk as we met to pass critical legislation to help Coloradans get through this crisis."
"Republicans in the House must put the people of Colorado first and follow the House’s common-sense safety protocols," Becker said.
Monday was the first day of a special session called by Gov. Jared Polis that aims to address COVID-19 relief measures for small businesses, homeowners, renters, child care programs and K-12 schools.
House Minority Leader Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Douglas County, questioned the governor's decision to bring lawmakers to the Capitol.
"Polis says you can't have thanksgiving but he can call 100 legislators from 100 different families together," Neville tweeted.