One in Six Mississippi Lawmakers Tests Positive for Coronavirus

In this July 6, 2020 photo, Mississippi legislators, staff and Capitol employees take advantage of a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center on the Capitol grounds in Jackson, Miss.

In this July 6, 2020 photo, Mississippi legislators, staff and Capitol employees take advantage of a drive-thru COVID-19 testing center on the Capitol grounds in Jackson, Miss. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Supreme Court rules that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation ... Houston GOP convention canceled by mayor … Maryland to hold “normal” election in November.

Twenty-six Mississippi legislators have tested positive for the coronavirus, leading Gov. Tate Reeves to advise people to seek testing if they came into contact with a lawmaker. In total, 36 people have been identified as linked to the outbreak at the state Capitol and almost 300 have been tested. Among the stricken legislators are two top leaders: Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn. The tally means one in six lawmakers has the virus. Mississippi lawmakers spent long days in the Capitol in recent weeks, most dramatically resulting in removal of the former state flag, which prominently included a Confederate emblem, after 126 years. While some lawmakers wore masks, many did not, news reports indicated. Covid-19 cases have surged in Mississippi, with Reeves on Thursday ordering people to wear masks while shopping or at social gatherings in 13 counties. “Mississippi is in a fight for our lives ... we are in the middle of a spike,” he said. [Clarion Ledger; Mississippi Today; Sun Herald]

OKLAHOMA TREATY | A large swath of eastern Oklahoma, including much of Tulsa, is within an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a major 5-4 decision. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the majority opinion, found that Congress in 1866 entered into a treaty with the Muscogee Nation that it needs to honor. “Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word," he wrote. The decision will likely mean big changes in how crimes are prosecuted and possibly could have other implications. [New York Times; Associated Press; USA Today]

CONVENTION CANCELED | Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who had previously asked the Republican Party of Texas to voluntarily cancel its convention in the city next week, made the decision on Wednesday to cancel the event himself, citing the coronavirus pandemic. "The linchpin for me (was) when one of the people on my staff, combined with my sister, who said to me, 'Mayor, brother, your mom was a maid working at these hotels. And if your mom was alive today working at one of these hotels (would) you as the mayor still allow this convention to go forth and run the risk of infecting your mom?' " he said. "And the answer is no." Dan Patrick, the outspoken Republican lieutenant governor in Texas, blasted the decision as a “political hack job.” But U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Republican from Houston, tweeted his support, noting that Turner canceling the convention will mean the state party isn’t “on the hook” financially. It is “a prudent move for public health,” he said. [CNN; Houston Chronicle]

VOTING PROTOCOLS | Maryland will hold a “normal” election in the fall, while proactively mailing voters absentee ballot applications, Gov. Larry Hogan said. In Baltimore during the June primary there were long lines at the limited polling places, while problems also occurred with some mail-in ballots. “Mistakes were definitely made, and it was unacceptable and inexcusable that they screwed up so much with respect to getting the ballots out on time and getting them out to everybody,” he said. But some officials on the state election board had again urged the state to mail out ballots to all voters, as it had for June, warning about the ability to recruit poll workers. Hogan pledged that the state will provide protective equipment for workers. Amy Cruice of the ACLU of Maryland said the switched format could confuse voters, adding that the primary was largely a success despite some problems. “We will lose all of the gains we made in the June primary, in terms of being able to give people a safe and accessible way to vote,” she said. [Washington Post; Baltimore Sun]

VIRUS SURGE | Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that the gains his state made in combating the coronavirus pandemic in the spring have been wiped out by the past three weeks as cases surge. "We have a statewide pandemic. It's no longer one or two regions," Edwards said. [CNN]

Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor. 

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