2 more lawmakers infected amid virus surge
LANSING (AP) — At least two more Michigan legislators have tested positive as the coronavirus continues surging to record heights, including one who attended Senate session and committee hearings on Thursday — the same day the House canceled votes due to infections among members.
Those with COVID-19 include Sen. Kim LaSata of Berrien County’s Bainbridge Township and Rep. Ann Bollin of Brighton Township, both Republicans. Another Republican, Rep. Scott VanSingel of Grant, confirmed Thursday he was recovering from the virus. Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, announced his infection last week.
All told, at least seven lawmakers have tested positive this year while an eighth died from a suspected case. The Republican-led Legislature had already been scheduled to break until Dec. 1, though it faces pressure to act to curb the virus after GOP legislators successfully challenged Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of emergency powers to issue restrictions.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told radio station WJR that the infection rates “are very alarming,” as are rising hospitalizations. He opposes the governor’s call to codify the state health department’s face covering rule in law.
“I believe the right approach, instead of mandating and instead of browbeating people, is that we inform, we inspire and then we give them calls to action,” he said. “In this case, the call to action … is be situationally aware, be very respectful of people’s space. Honor the policies of those organizations and places where you go. If they’ve got mask requirements, wear the mask. Don’t be contentious about it.”
Wearing a face covering or not, Shirkey said, “is not a political statement, it’s just something out of respect.” He, like Whitmer, urged people to think carefully about holiday gatherings.
The state on Friday reported 8,516 new confirmed cases — the fourth straight daily high — and 113 deaths, including 83 that occurred previously and were identified by a review of death certificates.
LaSata said she learned Thursday evening that a test she had been given during a recent routine medical checkup came back positive.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said in a written statement, saying she remained asymptomatic. “Since I had no knowledge that I was exposed to the virus and experienced no symptoms, I attended Senate session and committee hearings as normal on Thursday.”
Video shows LaSata wore a mask during the four committee meetings she attended. She also participated in a closed-door caucus with 20 other Republicans.
Amber McCann, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, said the Senate Business Office alerted all Senate employees and did tracing to notify people who had “close contact” with LaSata. LaSata was tested ahead of a planned medical procedure next week, McCann added.
The House previously had committee hearings Tuesday, though Bollin does not sit on those panels. She did attend a session Nov. 5, including a private GOP caucus meeting, and a news conference at which Republicans unveiled their 11-member leadership team, which includes Bollin, for the 2021-22 session. Bollin wore a mask at the press conference.
“I am confident that I will make a full recovery and pray for those who have been diagnosed or will be diagnosed that they may also experience a full recovery,” Bollin said in a statement to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus.
Michigan’s seven-day average of daily new cases has more than doubled from 2,852 to 5,846 over two weeks. Daily deaths have nearly doubled, too, from 27 to 50. Hospital executives across the state this week sounded alarms but also said they did not support a lockdown like Whitmer imposed in the spring.
One in every 244 people in Michigan tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University.