After Rep. Carter contracts COVID-19, lawmakers, staff advised to self-quarantine

Michigan lawmaker attended last week’s 12-hour session

State Rep. Tyrone Carter, April 22, 2019 | Ken Coleman

The first known member of the Michigan Legislature has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus.

State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) attended the last House session on March 17, in which 94 of the chamber’s 110 members — including Carter — were present for a lengthy 12-hour session to negotiate a $125 million COVID-19 response bill. The bill eventually passed at about 10:30 p.m.

Carter could not be reached for comment in time of publication, but told Bridge earlier that he began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 18, the day after the House session. He was tested for the virus on Saturday, and received a positive diagnosis Thursday morning.

Carter also said that he feels “90%” better.

Michigan Legislature OKs $125M for COVID-19, schools left out

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), made it clear in an emailed statement that Chatfield still feels the session was necessary.

“The House had to meet to take an important and time-sensitive vote that day to provide an immediate $50 million for necessary hospital equipment to address shortages and capacity issues and $50 million for DHHS staffing and testing,” D’Assandro said.

“That is on top of a further $50 million in reserve funding for future needs and an authorization of federal funds ahead of time so the governor’s administration would be able to use it as soon as Congress acted without waiting for the Legislature to reconvene,” he added.

In a tweet, Chatfield said he is wishing Carter a speedy recovery.

Dr. Joe Schwarz, a former Republican from Battle Creek who served in the state Legislature before later serving in Congress, was trained at Harvard and Wayne State University Medical School and has been a practicing otolaryngologist since the 1970s. He said that this situation is “unknown territory,” and that lawmakers should defer to the advice of epidemiologists on how to handle it.

“My advice would be, when somebody comes to me and says, ‘What should I do; I was in the chamber?’ … I would say, ‘Closely monitor yourself for any symptoms,’” Schwarz said.

Joe Schwarz

“If any of them who were in the chamber that day — members, staff, whomever, sergeants at arms — start developing symptoms, they need to get tested right away and isolate themselves right away,” Schwarz added.

As to whether everyone who was in the chamber that day should isolate themselves just in case, Schwartz says he can only speak for himself. Personally, he would choose to isolate himself from friends and family for a period of 10 to 14 days to make sure he doesn’t develop symptoms.

“You still have to tell all the members, everybody that was in the chamber. And I think most epidemiologists would say the best thing for you to do under these circumstances would be to quarantine yourself for 10 to 14 days,” Schwarz said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding close contact with other people, and self-isolating if you believe you may have been in contact with an infected person. Each case varies and individuals are encouraged to contact their doctor for medical advice, but 10-14 days is thought to be the incubation period for the disease during which an individual should self-isolate.

Leaders across Michigan expressed their support for Carter.

In a tweet, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said: “I am thinking of Representative Carter and his family, and am hopeful for a speedy recovery. We all have to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A statement issued by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) on Thursday said that Shirkey is sending well wishes to Carter’s family, and has encouraged any lawmakers and staff with concerns to self-quarantine for two weeks.

“We have informed senators and staff of the representative’s positive test and have encouraged anyone with concerns to self-quarantine for 14 days and contact their healthcare provider. The Senate has taken proactive measures over the past several weeks to increase cleaning and disinfecting efforts in our workplaces and the Senate Chamber. We will continue to follow prescribed social distancing behaviors and take necessary precautions,” Shirkey said.

House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) released a statement expressing her concern for Carter’s health, and wished him a “speedy recovery” on Twitter.

State Reps. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham), Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.), also offered words of support for Carter.