Wisconsin GOP senator has COVID; critical of mask mandates

Republican state Sen. André Jacques, one of the Wisconsin Legislature's most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was at the hospital on Monday with pneumonia.

The positive test and hospital care came after Jacque testified on Wednesday in a packed Capitol hearing room without wearing a mask.

The lawmaker from De Pere did not immediately return a text message Tuesday seeking comment on his condition. His spokesman provided a statement from Jacque dated Monday night.

Jacque said in the email that some of his family members also tested positive for the virus. Jacque, 40, has six children, including an infant.

Jacque said in the email that he was at the hospital with pneumonia, but did not say if he had been admitted. Jacque said he has had pneumonia before but did not immediately say whether it was diagnosed as COVID-19 pneumonia.

Jacque said he was "largely asymptomatic with the exception of fatigue, which I had been feeling more of since the baby arrived. Fatigue has been a long-standing health concern of mine but otherwise I had good health readings when I tested positive."

His office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Jacque was vaccinated.

Wisconsin, like much of the country, has seen cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations skyrocket in recent weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. On Monday, the seven-day average of positive cases reached its highest level since February. There were 660 people hospitalized statewide as of Monday due to the virus, the highest level since late January. Over the past seven days, 179 people were admitted to the hospital due to the virus.

Jacque has been outspoken against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including sponsoring bills that would prevent government officials or business owners from requiring proof of vaccination. He, like other Republicans, opposed the statewide mask mandate that the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down in March.

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Jacque said that since his positive test, his legislative office "has been following all protocols and I personally reached out to the limited number of close contacts from last week in case I was positive at the time."

"I do not believe any of my staff or close contacts are experiencing symptoms," he said.

Reaction

Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) issued the following statement:

"I hope Sen. Jacque and his family have a full recovery. I also hope others are spared from his irresponsible, selfish behavior and that any people he exposed to COVID or directly infected are taking precautions to stop the spread of this virus. 

"On Wednesday, there was a Joint Senate and Assembly Education Committee meeting held to pursue an imaginary threat. At the same time, Republicans exposed themselves and the public to the very real and deadly threat they continue to ignore, downplay, and let run rampant. Sen. Andre Jacque presented his bill. He did not wear a mask while speaking or while waiting to speak. 

"Some have been privy to the knowledge of a positive test result since Friday. I, like many others, didn’t get definitive information until a Journal Sentinel article was posted this morning, a full 6 days after the committee. Committee Chairs Sen. Darling and Rep. Thiesfeldt should not sit on this information any longer. They owe it to our neighbors, the staff, and Capitol police who were in the room over those 7 hours to immediately contact every person who was in the committee room on Wednesday so they can schedule a COVID test and follow necessary precautions. Unfortunately, masks were not required or enforced and so the unmasked people packed into the room are at much higher risk.

"I again ask my Wisconsin neighbors to please get vaccinated and wear a mask when indoors. This is not political - it is science and it is common sense. Individual rights don’t mean you can purposefully hurt others or put others at risk. The 8,324 lives this unforgiving virus has taken from our state deserve better than their neighbors refusing to wear a mask or get vaccinated simply for partisan political points. 

"Our state leaders should be committed to spreading the truth, not the virus."

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