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Wisconsin GOP senator, critic of mask mandates has COVID-19

August 17, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this March 2, 2015, file photo shows Wisconsin Republican state Rep. Andre Jacques at a labor committee hearing at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis.  Jacques, one of the Legislature's most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 with pneumonia. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 2, 2015, file photo shows Wisconsin Republican state Rep. Andre Jacques at a labor committee hearing at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Jacques, one of the Legislature's most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 with pneumonia. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - In this March 2, 2015, file photo shows Wisconsin Republican state Rep. Andre Jacques at a labor committee hearing at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Jacques, one of the Legislature's most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021 with pneumonia. (Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican state Sen. André Jacques, one of the Wisconsin Legislature’s most conservative lawmakers and a vocal opponent of mask and vaccine mandates, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was at the hospital on Monday with pneumonia.

The positive test and hospital care came after Jacque testified on Wednesday in a packed Capitol hearing room without wearing a mask.

The lawmaker from De Pere did not immediately return a text message Tuesday seeking comment on his condition. His spokesman, Matt Tompach, provided a statement from Jacque dated Monday night and said Tuesday afternoon that he had no update on his condition.

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“Sen. Jacque appreciates respect for his family, and the tremendous expressions of support he’s received from others,” Tompach said. “He’s tired but in good spirits.”

Jacque said in the Monday night email that some of his family members also tested positive for the virus. Jacque, 40, has six children, including an infant.

Jacque said in the email that he was at the hospital with pneumonia, but did not say if he had been admitted. Jacque said he has had pneumonia before but did not immediately say whether it was diagnosed as COVID-19 pneumonia.

Jacque said he was “largely asymptomatic with the exception of fatigue, which I had been feeling more of since the baby arrived. Fatigue has been a long-standing health concern of mine but otherwise I had good health readings when I tested positive.”

His office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Jacque was vaccinated. Jacque’s condition was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Wisconsin, like much of the country, has seen cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations skyrocket in recent weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. On Monday, the seven-day average of positive cases reached its highest level since February. There were 660 people hospitalized statewide as of Monday due to the virus, the highest level since late January. Over the past seven days, 179 people were admitted to the hospital due to the virus.

Jacque has been outspoken against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including sponsoring bills that would prevent government officials or business owners from requiring proof of vaccination. He, like other Republicans, opposed the statewide mask mandate that the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down in March.

Jacque said that since his positive test, his legislative office “has been following all protocols and I personally reached out to the limited number of close contacts from last week in case I was positive at the time.”

“I do not believe any of my staff or close contacts are experiencing symptoms,” he said.

Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson was at Wednesday’s hearing where Jacque, who was not masked, testified for his bill banning the teaching of critical race theory. The hearing lasted for roughly seven hours. Larson, who wore a mask throughout the hearing, wished Jacque and his family a full recovery.

“I also hope others are spared from his irresponsible, selfish behavior and that any people he exposed to COVID or directly infected are taking precautions to stop the spread of this virus,” Larson said.

He called on the chairs of the two committees that held Wednesday’s hearing to contact everyone who was in the room. Those lawmakers, Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, did not immediately return messages.