Georgia’s Senate majority leader announced on Tuesday he tested positive for COVID-19 on the second day of the 2021 legislative session.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said in a statement that he received a positive test Tuesday morning after following COVID-19 standard testing protocol in the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta.
“My symptoms are minor, and I plan to follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and isolate at home until the virus passes,” Dugan wrote. “I’m grateful for the staff at the Capitol who ensure all members are healthy and safe by performing these health screenings and I look forward to returning to my duties and working hard for the good people of the 30th district.
“I appreciate Georgia Tech and the innovative testing procedure they have produced. I had results prior to noticing any real symptoms.”
State lawmakers returned to Capitol building on Monday for the first day of the 2021 legislative session. While election reforms will be on the top of the priorities list, legislators will also deliberate on the upcoming state budget and tackle other issues, such as $2,000 teacher pay raises.
Dugan said lawmakers are required to get tested for the virus twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays during the legislative session, which typically lasts through March. Masks are mandated in both chambers and in all committee rooms.
He said despite his positive test, his absence will not impact the legislative session much this week. He was tested on Monday before experiencing any symptoms.
On Tuesday afternoon, Dugan told the Times-Georgian he has a “slight cold and dry throat,” but he can livestream his meetings online while he isolates for seven days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, for most people with COVID-19, isolation and social distancing precautions can be discontinued 10 days after symptoms start if the person has no fever for at least 24 hours.
He said he is unable to vote, but he plans to be back in time for state legislators to focus on Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal next week.
Dugan represents the state’s 30th Senate district, which includes portions of Carroll, Paulding and Douglas counties.
In an interview with the newspaper last week, Dugan talked about the COVID-19 procedures that legislators will go through under the Gold Dome amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For example, the page program that allows middle and high school students to work as assistants to their elected officials in the Capitol is gone this year. The college intern program that gives these students credits for working during the session has also been scaled back, he said.
He added that, constitutionally, lawmakers cannot conduct the legislative session virtually because they are required to meet as a body in the Capitol building.
But Dugan said the General Assembly considered meeting at the World Congress Center in Atlanta and using the center’s event rooms to allow lawmakers to spread out. The building is a state-owned property and is near Capitol Hill, but he said the legislative session needs to be streamed online and the center presents limitations on video recording.
Another modification to the way Senate members will conduct business this year deals with how each legislator votes. Each senator has one minute to cast their vote, and Dugan said a vote tally will then come up. This is being modified so that legislators from different areas of the building can isolate rather than having each member sitting on the floor together.
“When they come to vote, they’ve got to come in the chamber,” Dugan said. “What we’re doing is we’re trying to filter them in areas that are spread out in the chamber. So, they can come in, vote on their machine and then go back out. The next group comes in and we leave the machine up until all the votes are counted.”