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At Least Three Ohio Lawmakers Test Positive For COVID-19 During Lame Duck Session

The Ohio Statehouse in downtown Columbus on March 26, 2020.
Ryan Hitchcock
The Ohio Statehouse in downtown Columbus on March 26, 2020.

At least three Ohio lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, as the legislature rushes to get bills passed before the two-year session ends in a few weeks.

State Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township) announced his positive result last week. Carfagna said in a statement that he wears a mask at the Statehouse and encourages everyone to take COVID-19 seriously.

"Those who know me know that I have tried to practice good habits to help reduce the spread of COVID-19," Carfagna wrote. "I fully understand that these measures are not a foolproof inoculation against the virus, but I am praying today they have helped spare others from falling ill because of me."

Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) has confirmed he has it too. Both say they have symptoms but are recovering at home.

Another unnamed Republican has tested positive as well. All were at the Statehouse last week for committee hearings and session. They're all quarantining, along with some other lawmakers who say they'll stay home.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes said she's concerned about her colleagues, staff and journalists, and is suggesting this week's legislative activity be canceled. But a spokesperson for Republican Speaker Bob Cupp says no changes to the schedule are planned.

It's unclear where the lawmakers may have contracted the virus.

Masks are required in the Statehouse, but as the legislative branch, the House and Senate make their own rules, and Republican leaders have repeatedly refused to enforce the mask mandate among lawmakers.

Last month, House Democrats proposed a motion to require members to wear masks, but it failed along party lines, with all Republicans voting against. Many members do still wear masks in committee meetings and on the floor.

Other state lawmakers who've announced they've had coronavirus over the last few months are Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville). Several Senators have confirmed they had positive tests too: Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Columbus), Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) and Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction).

Ohio's very first death from COVID-19 has a connection to the state legislature. Mark Wagoner Sr., who died in March, was the father of Lucas County Republican Party chair Mark Wagoner, a former state senator.