Seven state legislators, all Republicans, have tested positive for the coronavirus in the last week in Arkansas, where daily case reports and hospitalizations are soaring to record levels.
In a sign of just how pervasive community spread of the disease has become in Arkansas, the state surgeon general, Dr. Gregory Bledsoe, announced on Twitter Monday night that the virus had penetrated his family from two directions.
His mother, State Senator Cecile Bledsoe, and his father have tested positive in connection with her work in the legislature, he said — and independently, his wife and two of his three children have the virus as well. “Just coincidence,” he wrote.
Dr. Bledsoe said he did not believe the infections were related to his medical work, either, because he has tested negative and has no symptoms.
Another lawmaker in the cluster is Representative Charlene Fite, who announced her positive test on Saturday. “Usually the final days of a campaign are busy and exciting,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “That will not be the case this time.”
In an email to The New York Times on Tuesday, Ms. Fite said she was feeling “much better.”
Senator Missy Thomas Irvin, the fourth of the seven lawmakers to test positive, also said she is feeling better.
“I felt like a train ran over me with the body and back aches,” she said in an email to the Times. “I still have head and chest congestion and I’m super tired, but I’m definitely over the hard part!”
The legislators kept in touch in a group chat, where they exchanged health tips and cheered each other up, she said.
One of the seven is a retired doctor, Joe A. Cloud, who represents Russellville in the state’s House of Representatives. He was released Tuesday morning after five days in the hospital.
Dr. Cloud said he believed he caught the virus during budget committee meetings in Little Rock on Oct. 13, 14 and 15. He wore a mask, he said, and so had “most” others. But he started feeling unwell afterward, tested positive on Oct. 18 and was later hospitalized when his oxygen levels dropped to dangerous levels.
“It’s a virus, it’s a billionth of our size, and unless somebody just completely isolates themselves, unfortunately you’re going to have some exposure,” Dr. Cloud said in an interview. His condition has improved, he said, but he still had a bad cough, and “it’ll be a couple of months before I can say I’m 100 percent.”
Senator Terry Rice and Representatives Michelle Gray and Stu Smith have also tested positive, according to legislative leaders.
Although the Senate canceled meetings last week after the first wave of cases, both houses are going ahead with committee meetings set for this week. Dr. Cloud said he would participate — virtually.
Budget hearings resumed Tuesday morning with distanced seating and remote-voting options under a new rule adopted last week, said Cecillea Pond-Mayo, a House spokeswoman. Plexiglass partitions and a mask requirement were already in place, she said.
Arkansas reported at least 21 new coronavirus deaths and 612 new cases on Monday, and has averaged 1,019 cases a day over the last week, 18 percent more than two weeks ago. Since the pandemic began, the state has reported at least 106,727 cases and 1,833 deaths, according to a New York Times database.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in our state, unfortunately,” Dr. Cloud said. “Try to be as absolutely careful as you can. Don’t hesitate to seek medical care.”
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