LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature on Monday canceled this week’s session and hearings because a Lansing-area state senator tested positive for the coronavirus through screening required by his service in the Michigan Army National Guard.
Republican Sen. Tom Barrett, of Charlotte, said he was told the results Sunday afternoon after being tested Friday. The 39-year-old said he was tested because the guard implemented a COVID-19 screening policy for all soldiers one week before they are to depart for training events.
He said he tested positive despite having taken “reasonable precautions.” Videos show him wearing a mask during several committee meetings last week and the week before.
Barrett sponsored a bill in April that would repeal a law that has given Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer broad emergency powers to act unilaterally during the pandemic. The Senate-passed bill is pending in the House but would surely be vetoed by the governor if it passed. The GOP-led Legislature has sued, and there is a petition drive underway to rescind the 1945 law.
“Thankfully I do not have any significant symptoms at this time, and I will be self-isolating according to medical guidelines,” Barrett said in a statement. “I have done my best to make contact with those I have been around in the past couple weeks so that they may also seek medical advice. I look forward to resuming my normal work schedule as quickly as possible.”
The Senate and House canceled a voting session that had been scheduled for Thursday and all committee hearings that had been set for Wednesday and Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, encouraged caucus members to be tested.
“We all wish Senator Barrett a speedy recovery” he said in a statement.
In July, a coronavirus outbreak in the California Legislature delayed the return from a scheduled summer recess. Many state legislatures shut down earlier this year as the pandemic took hold, but many eventually returned to work, with restrictions in place to limit the spread of the virus.
Thursday was when legislators might have voted on bills related to the start of the school year, including proposed changes to redefine “attendance” so that students would not have to be physically present in schools during the pandemic and limiting snow day forgiveness so that distance learning is done instead.
One controversial part of the plan approved by House Republicans would require districts to offer the option of in-person instruction to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Several schools have already announced plans to begin the academic year solely with remote teaching. The governor’s road map for reopening schools allows, but does not require, in-person instruction.
Barrett is the third known Michigan state legislator — and first state senator — with a confirmed coronavirus case. A fourth, Democratic Rep. Isaac Robinson of Detroit, likely died of COVID-19 in March, though he was not tested for it, his mother said.
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