House Speaker Halson Moultrie confirmed yesterday that another member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.
“I received information on Friday that a second member of the staff had tested positive,” Moultrie told The Nassau Guardian.
“Also, that member’s spouse has all of the symptoms. I don’t know what that member’s spouse’s test might have revealed. I didn’t receive that information. A third member of our staff, I’m informed that Doctors Hospital has requested that person today return for a test.
“So, we are waiting the results of that test.”
It was confirmed last week that an employee of Parliament tested positive for the virus. That employee came into contact with every single member of Parliament who was present when the House met on September 9, Moultrie said.
As a result, Moultrie said yesterday he is taking “precautionary measures to request or demand that all members of staff have a COVID test”.
“We’re receiving some challenges with that because some of the procedures that are required, particularly by Doctors Hospital, like that the tests be paid for online, are creating challenges to persons who don’t have a card or the card is not able to accept the cost at this time,” he said.
Moultrie said his team is “trying to work around it” to ensure that staff can take the tests.
He noted that the matter cannot be taken “lightly”.
“It appears as if we may, perhaps, have institutional spread,” he said.
Moultrie said he has yet to receive the test results for most of his 17 staff members.
He said the House of Assembly will have to operate with a skeletal team for this week’s meeting.
“Only those persons who have been able to do the test, perhaps with the exception of the technical staff and the people from the Hansard who are isolated from the precincts and not just the precincts but the chamber itself, will be able to function because they will not necessarily be a risk to persons entering the precincts of Parliament,” Moultrie said.
He said deep cleaning and sanitization of the Senate and House prior to meetings will continue.
While Moultrie has called on everyone who was exposed to the staffer to get tested and quarantine, Attorney General Carl Bethel said last week that such an action was unnecessary.
“According to the medical advice, the clerks would have worn masks all the time – all of the clerks would have,” Bethel said.
“Members of Parliament basically wore them most of the time and so, there’s no requirement, we’re advised, for members of Parliament to go into quarantine.”
The Cabinet Office, in a statement last week, said, “Persons who interacted with the employee, without following the preventative measures of wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and limiting the time spent with the employee to less than 15 minutes, will be required to quarantine.”
But St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette said he did not believe Parliament should have met and criticized the “15 minute rule”.
“Why is there a 15 minute rule for members of Parliament that I’ve never seen before,” he asked.
The House meets tomorrow.