Michigan GOP senator tests positive for COVID-19

Sens. Tom Barrett and Peter MacGregor at the Fiscal Year 2020 budget presentation in 2019 | Casey Hull

State Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) announced Sunday that he has tested positive for COVID-19.

Barrett said that he tested positive during a health screening on Friday issued by the Michigan Army National Guard, which has implemented a COVID-19 screening policy for all soldiers one week prior to their departure for training events. He said he found out on Sunday afternoon he had coronavirus “despite taking reasonable precautions.”

“Thankfully, I do not have any significant symptoms at this time, and I will be self-isolating according to medical guidelines,” Barrett said. “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.”

Several members of the Legislature have had COVID-19. State Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit) likely died of the virus in March after experiencing symptoms. State Reps. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) and Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) tested positive. And state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) said she had symptoms but her test was lost.

Barrett has been one of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s most vocal critics on her emergency orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 6,200 people and sickened more than 82,000 in Michigan.

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“The governor continues to disregard the constitutional separation of power by extending emergency declarations unilaterally,” Barrett said in a news release after the GOP-led Legislature sued Whitmer in May for her emergency actions. The case is still in court.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) issued a statement that didn’t mention Barrett by name.

“We were informed today that a member of the Senate tested positive for COVID-19.  The Senate followed the procedure it established months ago and informed senators and staff of the positive test result. The Senate Business Office provides all senators and staff with appropriate information for follow-up and protocols,” Shirkey said.

“Our immediate focus is on notification to all senators and staff. We will evaluate the need for changes to the legislative calendar in the coming days.”

The Advance asked Senate GOP spokeswoman Amber McCann if any reporters may have been exposed to Barrett. She noted he was in session on July 23, but noted reporters are seated in the gallery, “therefore making contact unlikely during session.”

She added, “I am not specifically aware of the Senator’s interactions with the media.”

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Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.