California Assembly delays session after virus outbreak

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FILE - In this July 11, 2019, file photo, Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, D-Inglewood, calls on lawmakers to approve a wildfire measure she co-authored, with Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, and Assemblyman Chad Mayes, R-Yucca Valley, before the Assembly in Sacramento, Calif. A coronavirus outbreak in the California Legislature has indefinitely delayed the state Assembly's return to work from a scheduled summer recess. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon's office confirmed five people who work in the Assembly have tested positive for the coronavirus. They include Burke, who is believed to have contracted the virus while on the Assembly floor last month. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A coronavirus outbreak in the California Legislature has indefinitely delayed the state Assembly’s return to work from a scheduled summer recess, highlighting the rapid spread of the virus in a state that has imposed new restrictions on bars and restaurants following a surge of cases and hospitalizations.

Speaker Anthony Rendon's office confirmed five people who work in the state Assembly have tested positive for the coronavirus. That includes Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, a Democrat from Inglewood, who is believed to have been infected while on the Assembly floor last month when lawmakers returned to the state Capitol in Sacramento to approve a $202.1 billion budget.

The Assembly was scheduled to return to work on July 13.

“The Assembly will remain in recess until further notice," Rendon said. “We have taken this decision, as we did in March, to protect members, staff and the public from exposure, and it comes in light of recent news of positive coronavirus tests in the Capitol.”

Many state legislatures shut down earlier this year as the pandemic took hold of the U.S., including California, where lawmakers missed nearly two months of work in its first unscheduled recess in 158 years. But many legislatures eventually returned to work with restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus.

In California, those restrictions included mandatory masks for lawmakers on the floor, plus physical distancing in the chamber. Burke said both she and the person who exposed her to the virus were wearing masks.

“Currently, my daughter and I have no symptoms, but will be remaining in quarantine until released by a doctor,” Burke wrote in a message posted to her Twitter account.

The delay comes as more young people are getting the coronavirus in California, fueling a surge of hospitalizations across the state and prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration to step up enforcement of new restrictions on bars and restaurants.