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Nation & World

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

President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani speaks during an appearance before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on Dec. 2 in Lansing, Mich. Several days later, it was revealed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani speaks during an appearance before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on Dec. 2 in Lansing, Mich. Several days later, it was revealed that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

In Michigan, the House of Representatives is being investigated by the Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration for violating COVID-19 workplace regulations, following an employee complaint.

Since the start of the pandemic, 11 Michigan state legislators have publicly confirmed cases of COVID-19, yet the Republican-dominated legislature has continued to meet in person, holding meetings with limited precautions.

A spokesman for the House speaker declined to reveal how many members or staffers have tested positive — leaving the task of contact tracing up to the House Business Office.

But this week, after President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tested positive for COVID-19, 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 last 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 the capital county's health officer, Linda Vail.

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, 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 Speaker of the House 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 extremely likely that Giuliani was contagious during his testimony.

Tuesday Chatfield released a third statement saying a staff member who works with multiple committees had tested positive for COVID-19.

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

This is the second time that lawmakers have admitted to canceling session because a legislator or staffer tested positive for COVID-19

At the beginning of the pandemic, the legislature met three weeks after Rep. Tyrone Carter tested positive, two weeks after Rep. Isaac 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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