SALT LAKE CITY — Throughout the 2021 legislative session, Rep. Jon Hawkins has sometimes been the lone absent vote on a bill.
On Thursday night, on a mundane vote for a bill on insurance law, it changed — to the delight of his colleagues in the Utah House of Representatives.
Rep. Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove, cast a "yes" vote for the bill, then smiled as he appeared on the House monitors from his bed in a hospital intensive care unit where he is recovering from COVID-19.
"I just want to personally thank each and every one of you for your support, your prayers, your kindness. For reaching out to me and keeping me and my family close to your thoughts and your prayers. I miss every one of you," he said. "I wish I was there. I'm making progress. 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 that we take for granted."
Rep. Hawkins contracted COVID-19 prior to the start of the 2021 legislative session. He has been hospitalized ever since, missing all of the bills and hearings and floor debates.
"I miss you guys and I look forward to seeing you all soon," he said, his voice straining.
The House burst into applause for him. Also applauding was Rep. Kay Christofferson, R-Lehi, who has been participating from the home as he recovers from the virus.
House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, was moved to tears, grabbing his face mask to wipe his eyes.
"I'm jealous of Rep. Dunnigan that he got your vote on that insurance bill of all things!" the Speaker quipped, crying. "Thank you for joining us."
The Utah State Legislature has taken steps to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the building. Only three cases were identified in the Capitol when the legislature got under way in January, confirmed through testing that has been offered to lawmakers, staffers and interns. Since then, Utah's Department of Health has said testing has identified no new cases.
A mask mandate has also been in effect in the building.