Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, shortly after his wife, Kim Bonnen, contracted the viral respiratory disease. The outgoing state legislator, a Republican, confirmed the news in a post shared to his official Facebook page on Sunday afternoon.
“2020 just keeps on giving!” Bonnen wrote. While he described his wife’s symptoms as “difficult but manageable,” the politician said his own “have so far been mild.” The pair, alongside sons Gregory and Jackson, are continuing to quarantine inside their home, and both children have undergone diagnostic COVID-19 tests in the meantime. Bonnen said his family is taking these necessary precautions as a means to “keep those around us safe” in Sunday’s update.
Bonnen underscored the importance of widespread mask use and compliance with risk-reduction protocols in Sunday’s statement. After announcing his positive test result, the lawmaker said he has not identified the source, or sources, of his family’s infections. Texas is one of a number of U.S. states that saw COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and fatalities climb rapidly this fall.
“We are unable to pinpoint our initial exposure, as we – like so many other families – made the difficult decision to celebrate Christmas with just our own household this year and have diligently followed all health protocols since March, thanks to my wife’s adamant reminders,” Bonnen’s post read. “This disease is no joke in its unpredictability and severity, so please continue to keep your guard up and your loved ones protected. Mask up and social distance, avoid large gatherings, and take care of one another.”
The Texas representative, who has served on that state’s legislature for more than two decades, often participates in the national conversation surrounding COVID-19 and how to mitigate its ongoing spread. Bonnen’s Twitter account features recurring public health reminders, including recent advisory notices from state bureaus that emphasize the importance of mask use and physical distancing during holiday celebrations.
Over the summer, the House Speaker released a forthright statement condemning public opposition to face coverings, as Texas confronted a significant spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
“I have become increasingly infuriated by so-called advocates are who ditching the mask in the middle of a pandemic as an expression of freedom and liberty, while expressly killing the freedoms and liberties we cherish,” Bonnen said in the June statement.
He went on to point out that failing to wear masks in public settings effectively ensures that restrictions on workplaces, businesses and other group gathering spaces will persist, since face coverings reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission. Although Texas Governor Greg Abbott initially hesitated to impose a statewide mask mandate, the Republican leader ultimately implemented one at the beginning of July.
Newsweek reached out to Bonnen for comment but did not receive a reply in time for publication.