At least three Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) members have tested positive for COVID-19 after an in-person meeting last month, the chair of the board told High Plains Pundit on Wednesday.

SBOE Chair Keven Ellis said three board members have tested positive for COVID-19 in the two-week period after the Nov. 20 in-person meeting. It is unclear if any of these members contracted the virus at the meeting.

The Texas Tribune first reported the story on Tuesday.

SBOE Member Georgina Pérez of El Paso confirmed to the Tribune that she was one of the three members to test positive for the virus. 

Board support staff sent emails last Monday and Tuesday informing the board that two members have tested positive. The emails were confirmed to the newspaper by three SBOE members.

The Tribune declined to name the board members before they respond to a request for comment. 

Most of the members of the 15-person board met in person on Nov. 20 as one of their five meetings during the year to discuss education in Texas, including curriculum standards and textbook approvals. 

The board met virtually in April and June and in-person in September once schools were back in session, Ellis said. All public witnesses for both meetings attended remotely.

For the September and November meetings, the members were allowed to choose whether to attend in person or virtually. None opted to participate virtually in September when members met for more than 45 hours over four days, and one decided to meet virtually for November because of potential contact with someone who was COVID-19 positive, he said.

Ellis said in a statement that he gauged the comfort levels of SBOE members before moving the meetings in-person in September, noting they were aware of the “risk.”

“Whether it was a result of our most recent meetings has not been determined,” he said. “But I want to be clear: each of our elected members understands the risks of gathering in person, but my colleagues and I felt obligated to balance that with the need to most effectively perform our duties on behalf of our fellow Texans.”

“Given that teachers and students were back in the classroom as early as August, we all felt it important for us to meet in person to do our work, just as teachers and students have been doing across the state for quite some time,” he said.

The emergence of COVID-19 cases among board members comes ahead of Texas’s legislative session in January, which will gather hundreds of people over 140 days. 

Pérez, who developed symptoms on Thanksgiving, told the Tribune that the in-person meeting should serve as a “cautionary tale” ahead of the Texas legislative session.

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