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SALT LAKE CITY — Cheers, whistles, clapping and a standing ovation filled the House chamber as friends and colleagues welcomed the friendly face of a fellow legislator who had been absent this session because of COVID-19.
On Jan. 24, Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, posted on Facebook that he was hospitalized from the illness.
Representatives welcomed an impromptu video call from their long-absent colleague on Thursday afternoon. Hawkins appeared on the chamber's Zoom call to say hello, thank his fellow legislators for their care, update them on his well-being and even voted on some bills.
"I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your support ... for keeping me and my family close to your thoughts and prayers. I miss every one of you and I wish I was there," Hawkins said. "Also, I'm making progress and I'm supposed to get out of the ICU tomorrow to go to a long-term care facility to learn how to walk and swallow and do all those basic things we take for granted."
Hawkins was able to place his first vote of the session, an aye vote on HB54 that amends the insurance code. Hawkins was still present in the background and able to submit more votes as the House continued debating bills into the evening.
A video of the House welcoming Hawkins was posted on Twitter by the House Democrats.
Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, informed the other senators of Hawkins' appearance to vote. They recognized him with a round of applause.
"This is amazing," Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said. "We know the effects of COVID, many of us have witnessed it firsthand. How special it is to see this image of him, this was his first vote on the House floor. … It brightens our evening and makes us feel a lot better."
COVID-19 tests have been taken twice a week at the Capitol with only three cases detected among staff and two lawmakers testing positive since the session started Jan. 19, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Contributing: Ashley Imlay, Deseret News