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Idaho state senator goes to the Capitol after known COVID-19 exposure

Sen. Steven Thayn and Wayne Hoffman
Idaho Freedom Foundation
Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett), left, in a video with Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman on Thursday. During the interview, Hoffman told Thayn he had tested positive for COVID-19.

An Idaho state senator went to the Capitol Friday after being exposed to the coronavirus the day before.

Sen. Steven Thayn (R-Emmett) appeared in an interview Thursday with Wayne Hoffman, president of the far-right lobbying group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation over Facebook.

At the beginning of the interview regarding education policy, Hoffman and Thayn are in separate rooms.

“Actually, I had a positive COVID test,” Hoffman said. “So, I decided I’m not going to expose Sen. Thayn to my ‘rona, even though I otherwise feel a lot better than I did last night and today.”

“Since this is a milder variety of corona, I would’ve just as soon you came so I could get it,” Thayn said.

Scientists have found the omicron variant of COVID-19 to cause milder illnesses than previous variants. But its ability to spread more quickly has still led to a rush of hospitalizations in Idaho and around the country.

“Oh, well, I could certainly accommodate you if you want,” Hoffman said, laughing. “But I don’t want to be accused of you getting it and then spreading it around the Senate because that’d be a bad thing.”

“Well, that’s true,” Thayn replied.

About 45 minutes into the interview, Hoffman’s connection from the other room failed. He soon joined Thayn in person, sitting next to him.

“I was trying to keep you away from the ‘rona. This is more important,” Hoffman said, to which Thayn agreed.

The two continued the interview for nearly another hour.

Less than a day after the interview, Thayn attended Friday’s floor session in the Senate.

Thayn said he had already contracted COVID-19 this fall when asked why he went to the state Capitol on Friday. He said he didn’t want to discuss his vaccination status via text message.

After an infection, scientists believe natural immunity to the coronavirus lasts about 90 days compared to at least six months of protection from both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

A study by the CDC found people relying on their natural immunitywere more than twice as likely to be infected with COVID-19 again compared to those who were fully vaccinated.

Hoffman and the Idaho Freedom Foundationhave long refused to categorize the past two years as a pandemic, despite the disease having killed nearly 900,000 Americans and 5.7 million people worldwide.

As of Feb. 3, 4,466 of those dead were Idahoans.

Shortly after Gov. Brad Little issued a stay-at-home order in 2020,the influential lobbying group hosted or promoted protests skirting those regulations. It and its employees have repeatedlyspread misinformation about COVID-19.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation refuses to respond to media requests.

Republican legislative leaders have done little to stop the spread of the coronavirus at the Idaho Capitol throughout the pandemic.

Masks aren’t required in the building, nor has physical distancing been enforced.

An outbreak of COVID-19 last March forced lawmakers to recess for weeks. Several other legislators have contracted the disease this session.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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