RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears did not preside over the state Senate Thursday and will not run the chamber’s Friday session because she was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to her spokesperson.
Lt. Gov. Earle-Sears tested negative Thursday morning, her spokesperson Chris Saxman told 8News. She was also negative Tuesday after her office went through a round of testing, Saxman said. He added that Earle-Sears is not feeling symptoms at this time.
Multiple aides for state senators told 8News they were not briefed on her absence but were notified that Earle-Sears would not preside over the session on Thursday and Friday. Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) presided over Thursday’s session.
Before she was sworn in, Earle-Sears refused to disclose her vaccination status to CNN in an interview with the network. “The minute that I start telling you about my vaccine status, we’re going to be down the bottom of the mountain trying to figure out how we got there because now you want to know what’s in my DNA,” she said told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” in November.
The Virginia Senate adopted stricter COVID-19 guidelines for the 2022 legislative session than the House of Delegates, putting up barriers between senators and implementing other mitigation efforts.
The Virginia House only allows delegates isolating due to COVID-19, either through testing positive or exposure, to work from home. On Thursday, House Speaker Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) named four members who were working remotely.
Earle-Sears, a former state delegate, is the first woman of color and only the second woman to hold statewide office in Virginia. As lieutenant governor, Earle-Sears serves as president over the Virginia Senate.
In that role, Earle-Sears is tasked with breaking tied votes when lawmakers are locked on a measure in the 40-member chamber. The job of the lieutenant governor, the only statewide office that is part-time, is mainly an administrative role, but one seen as a springboard to the Executive Mansion.
Earle-Sears, the first Black Republican woman to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly, represented Norfolk in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. She emigrated from Jamaica when she was a child and served in the Marines before running for office.