Lawmakers were last at the Capitol on Wednesday, July 1st. Shortly thereafter, over 40 members in both the House and Senate were diagnosed with COVID-19 and several were hospitalized.
Among those who tested positive for the virus were Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.
As the legislature reconvenes today, News Mississippi reached out to several members to see how they felt about returning to the Capitol amid the pandemic.
Representative Jill Ford of Madison County contracted the virus in early July, and says, “I trust our leadership. I’m sure they have thoroughly considered the risks. We have business to take care of and I feel comfortable coming back at this time.”
Senator Neil Whaley of Marshall County said, “In the midst of this global pandemic that we are facing, I’m not sure if anyone really feels safe. I feel just as safe going back to the Capitol as I do going to work at home. In my opinion, we have to keep going. I was elected to represent the people of the 10th District and that is what I am going to do.”
Senator Jeremy England of Jackson County said, “I feel safe returning to the Capitol to get to work on the education budget and the Department of Marine Resources budget, which are very important issues that need to be resolved. We are all adults, and we have a job to do – just like many other Mississippians. I expect we’ll all be a little more cautious during this limited return – with social distancing and wearing masks, especially after several of our colleagues and friends from the Capitol contracted the virus back in June. But we can return safely, and we should. We have important work to do. I absolutely feel safe.”
Representative Kent McCarty of Hattiesburg said, “We’ve taken every appropriate precaution to ensure the safety of legislators and Capitol staff- wearing masks, working from our offices, and limiting the number of people in the chamber at once. It slows the process down, but we have a job to do as elected officials and this is the only way to do it safely right now.”
Senator Jeff Tate of Lauderdale County said, ” I feel safe returning. Several precautions are being taken to ensure everyone’s safety. I think it’s important that we return now to continue working for the people of Mississippi.”
Senator Juan Barnett of Jones County said, “After the recent outbreak in the legislature in July, I was concerned about returning if there were no social distancing in the chamber, mask-wearing, and temperature checks. I understand that these health and safety guidelines will be strictly followed.”
The House and Senate reconvene at 1 P.M. There will be medical professionals from the State Department of Health and the Mississippi State Medical Association taking temperatures and issuing masks to everyone who enters the Capitol. All are strongly encouraged to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer frequently, and adhere to social distancing guidelines.