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Lawmakers thank health workers for keeping legislative session going with COVID-19 testing

SHARE Lawmakers thank health workers for keeping legislative session going with COVID-19 testing

Members of the Utah Department of Health’s mobile testing team stand as they are recognized by members of the Senate at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Team members were honored for their work administering COVID-19 tests to legislators and staff throughout the 2021 general session.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate recognized workers with the Utah Department of Health on Thursday for their help administering COVID-19 tests to keep the legislative session going.

The group of several medical employees throughout the session arrived at the Capitol as early as 6 a.m. to test lawmakers and Capitol staff, according to Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton. They have performed 4,500 tests since the session began on Jan. 19.

In the Senate, only two lawmakers tested positive and went into isolation, participating from their homes through videoconferencing before they were able to return to the Capitol. A small number of legislative staffers also tested positive and were sent home to recover.

“First of all, I’m really grateful for the two-week vacation you sent me on,” quipped Senate Budget Vice Chairman Don Ipson, R-St. George, who tested positive for the disease along with Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

“I want to thank you for helping us to maintain our health and strength during this legislative session, and I think your dedication is much appreciated,” Ipson told the health department employees gathered in the Senate chamber.

Rapid COVID-19 testing — and a handshake ban — became new realities this year for Utah lawmakers, as legislators hope to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak on Capitol Hill, which has been referred to as a “petri dish.”

“Thanks for this great medical team, thanks for all the medical professionals in the state of Utah,” Adams said. 

He called Thursday “a great day” for the state due to Salt Lake and Davis counties’ announcements that they have moved to the moderate transmission level amid the pandemic. 

“And we appreciate these health workers who have done so much to help us get through this pandemic,” Adams said.