After Giuliani Hearing Last Week, Michigan House Is Accused Of COVID-19 Violations

Dec 8, 2020
Originally published on December 9, 2020 11:03 am

Updated Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. ET

In Michigan, the House of Representatives is being investigated by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration over violations to COVID-19 workplace regulations following an employee complaint.

Since the start of the pandemic, 11 Michigan state legislators and more than 30 legislative staffers have tested positive for coronavirus. Those numbers do not include Democratic Rep. Isaac Robinson who died of suspected COVID-19 on March 29.

Yet, the Republican-dominated Legislature has continued to meet in person, holding meetings with limited precautions.

But this week, after President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for the coronavirus, the state House has canceled three days of the lame-duck session. The state Senate will continue to meet.

Giuliani appeared before the House Oversight Committee for more than four hours on Wednesday alongside Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis in a House office building. Both were unmasked for the duration of the hearing — along with some lawmakers and several members of the 50-person audience.

At one point Giuliani asked Jessy Jacob, who was there to testify, "Would you be comfortable taking your mask off so that other people can hear you more clearly?" Jacob declined.

Mask-wearing and enforcement is sparse in committee hearings and the galleries above both legislative chambers in the state Capitol building. Multiple Republicans have declined to wear masks to their hearings throughout the pandemic, prompting a chorus of concern from their Democratic counterparts and Linda Vail, the health officer for Ingham County in Lansing, the capital.

Vail has written a letter to legislators asking them to enforce social distancing and the use of face coverings at their hearings, but there's been little compliance. At both House and Senate Oversight Committee hearings chaired by Republicans last week, several members of the crowd didn't wear masks, and many wore them improperly. Some lawmakers in both parties removed their masks when asking questions.

In the wake of the hearings, Vail has recommended that anyone who did not wear a face covering to Giuliani's testimony should quarantine through Dec. 12.

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield issued a statement Monday, saying, "Everyone needs to follow the science and do what the experts recommend," accusing others of "simply trying to use Mayor Giuliani's diagnosis for political ends."

Chatfield took Giuliani's word that "he was COVID-negative while in Michigan and no one in Michigan is being considered for contact tracing, per CDC guidelines" despite advice from the state's chief medical executive and Vail, who said it's likely Giuliani was contagious during his testimony.

On Tuesday, Chatfield released a third statement, saying a staff member who works with multiple committees had tested positive for the coronavirus.

"This staffer had nothing to do with the Oversight Committee hearing last week, and his or her positive result is unrelated to the hearing," Chatfield said.

It is the second time that lawmakers have admitted to canceling a session because a legislator or staffer tested positive for the coronavirus.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Legislature met three weeks after Rep. Tyrone Carter tested positive, two weeks after Rep. Robinson died of suspected COVID-19, and one day after Rep. Karen Whitsett tested positive — all three Detroit Democrats.

The Democratic Caucus called for temporary rules for emergency operation back in April, which would have permitted remote participation in committees and session, but Republicans in the chamber demurred, and the resolution has been sitting in committee since the day it was introduced.

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