Veteran California Capitol worker dies from COVID-19

A veteran employee at the California state Capitol died last month after contracting the coronavirus.

Lawrence "Larry" Luna III died on Dec. 22 "after a battle with COVID-19," according to a memo from Erika Contreras, the secretary of the state Senate.

The 58-year-old was the automotive pool manager for the Department of General Services at the Capitol garage, where he helped coordinate the flow of traffic. He was "an always-friendly and dependable part of the Capitol Garage crew for many years, who welcomed Governors and arriving Members and their staffs," according to a memo to lawmakers from Assemblyman Ken Cooley, chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee.

Luna’s death came after state legislative leaders decided to delay their return to the state Capitol, a decision made in part "to keep all staff in the Capitol as safe as possible," according to a joint statement last month from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins.

SACRAMENTO - State Capitol

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 11, unless legislative leaders decide to delay the session again.

Luna’s death was first reported by Capitol Public Radio. The news outlet reported last month that multiple people who work at the Capitol have tested positive for the coronavirus, so many that a memo from the state Senate pleaded with people to pay attention to virus protocols.

Statewide, new coronavirus cases are at an all-time high. California reported 585 deaths on Friday, the most ever in a single day. On Sunday, state officials said there were no available hospital beds in intensive care units in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. Newsom has placed most of the state under a stay-at-home order that requires businesses to close or limit their capacity.

The state Legislature delayed its session twice last year for multiple weeks, actions that reduced the number of bills that ultimately became law. This year, a law that prevents people from being evicted for not paying their rent because of the coronavirus is set to expire Jan. 31. Lawmakers are negotiating with landlords and tenants groups about extending those protections. Another delay could threaten those efforts.

As of Monday, lawmakers are still scheduled to return to the Capitol on Jan. 11.

Luna worked in state government for nearly 40 years, beginning his career at the Department of Public Health in 1980 before moving to the Department of General Services in 1988. Rendon, the Assembly speaker, called him "a dedicated, well-liked member of the Capitol community."

Luna had four sisters and four children, according to the memo from Contreras.

"His cheerful attitude, and his willingness to be of assistance endeared him to many, and his leadership and professionalism, garnered him the respect of his co-workers," Contreras wrote. "His loss will be deeply felt by all who knew him."