The state Capitol. Photo: Andre m, via Wikimedia. Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license


At least two dozen state lawmakers were absent from floor sessions this morning after many of them, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, were potentially exposed to the coronavirus at a farewell event for a colleague on Tuesday night.

Representatives for the state Senate and Assembly could not confirm exactly how legislators were asked to stay home on Thursday. But Sen. Josh Becker, a Menlo Park Democrat who was at the Tuesday night event and then tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, said “maybe a dozen lawmakers in total” were hanging out at a hotel in downtown Sacramento where many of them stay while in town, an “impromptu get-together” for former Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez after she announced her resignation on Monday.

“Certainly there were some people that had to quarantine because they were exposed to me,” Becker said.

The mass exposure further complicates the start of a new legislative session, with a looming deadline at the end of this month to act on any bills that did not advance out of their house of origin last year. Two other lawmakers also announced this week that they had tested positive for or been exposed to COVID-19, and the Senate on Thursday limited offices to one staff member per day, with the rest told to work from home as the omicron variant propels another surge of coronavirus cases across California.

The Assembly reported 26 absences among its 80 members on Thursday, but a representative said more than half of those were requested earlier in the week and were not related to the Tuesday night event, including for paternity leave, illness and medical reasons.

Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Rendon, said in an email that guidelines from the California Department of Health “do not require isolation for vaccinated and boosted individuals following potential exposure,” but “out of an abundance of caution, the Speaker asked Members who attended Tuesday’s event to stay home from session today.”

Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat, was among those who attended the event and stayed home, Talbot said. “They will test again Monday morning before being admitted to floor session.”

A representative for the Senate could not immediately provide the number of absences today.

Becker said because of regular testing requirements in the Legislature, he had tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday and again on Tuesday.

“I got a negative antigen test right before the event,” which involved members hanging out at a second-floor lounge at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, he said. Becker said he “had a mask on the whole time” at the event, as did many other attendees.

But on Wednesday morning, he tested again before a speaking engagement at a school, he said, and it came back positive. Becker, who has received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster, said he feels okay and will quarantine for 10 days, at the request of the Senate leadership.

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