Legislature taking precautions after employee tests positive for COVID-19

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For America

The materials used to collect specimen from those potentially infected with COVID-19 is shown in a mock COVID-19 specimen collection at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds in Jackson, Miss., Monday, March 23, 2020.

Legislative leaders confirmed on Monday that an employee who occasionally works at the state Capitol has tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee works for the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees state building and grounds, including the Capitol. No other details on the employee or case were immediately available.

House Speaker Philip Gunn announced Monday afternoon that additional safety precautions will be imposed in the House, such as not all the members being in the chamber at the same time.

“We are trying to maintain a safe environment,” Gunn said.

Some members will listen to debate via the intercom system from rooms off the chamber and only come to the chamber to ask questions, speak on bills or offer amendments.

“We are asking everyone to wear a mask,” he said. “We have not mandated it, but we think it is appropriate.”

Earlier this year the legislative leadership had strict safety precautions in place but in recent days have relaxed through guidelines.

In late March, a Capitol Police officer reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. This was while the Legislature’s session was on hiatus because of the pandemic. Lawmakers resumed their session in late May and are hoping to finish it next week.

Access to parts of the Capitol and legislative proceedings have been limited, and people entering the Capitol have their temperature checked and must answer medical questions.

So far there have been no reports of any of the 174-member state Legislature testing positive for COVID-19.