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Another Michigan lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus

Rep. John Chirkun photo
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State Rep. John Chirkun said Monday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming at least the 10th member of the Legislature to be infected since the pandemic hit Michigan more than eight months ago.

Also, two people in the Senate notified the business office of their positive tests. It was not specified if they are senators, employees or interns. Neither was on site during the transmission period nor had close contact with anyone in the Senate.

Chirkun is the sixth known lawmaker to be infected in less than a month, amid surging COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths among the public. The Legislature has 148 members and is due to return this week after a two-week break.

House Democratic Leader Christine Greig said Chirkun, a third-term Democrat from Roseville, thinks he contracted the virus during a recent hunting trip. He is “doing well and in a very good spirits,” she said. She reminded people to help stop the spread of the virus by staying home as much as possible, wearing a mask in public and keeping distance from others.

Meanwhile, the health officer in Ingham County — where the Capitol is based — wrote a letter to Senate officials Monday saying she had received complaints about multiple audience members not wearing masks or social distancing during a joint meeting of the Senate and House oversight committees on Nov. 19. The Republican-led panels heard testimony for more than three hours on reports of alleged irregularities in the Nov. 3 election.

Dr. Linda Vail included a link to the state health department’s epidemic order and said that as an employer, the Legislature should be following guidelines in separate workplace rules that are meant to protect employees.

“As cases have surged to levels beyond what we have seen to date with COVID-19, and as the holiday season brings about some of the most risky activities (travel and gatherings), this is a particularly critical time to be mindful of adherence to both” the order and the workplace regulations, she wrote to Secretary of the Senate Margaret O’Brien and Jordan Hantwitz, director of the Senate Business Office. Vail expressed concern that legislators and members of the public travel from various corners of the state and risk bringing the virus back to their communities.

An 11th lawmaker, Rep. Isaac Robinson, died from a suspected case in March. Democratic Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, who presides over the Senate, has unsuccessfully called for GOP leaders to enact and enforce a mask requirement inside the legislative chambers at all times.

Michigan’s rate of tests coming back positive, 11.6%, is up slightly over two weeks. The seven-day case average of 6,854 is down from 7,235 in the same period. The average daily death count, however, is 89 — an increase from 60 on Nov. 16.