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Georgia House member removed for refusing COVID-19 testing

January 26, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A member of the Georgia state House was removed from the chamber Tuesday for not abiding by the legislature’s COVID-19 testing policy.

Rep. David Clark, a Republican from Buford, was asked to leave the chamber floor by House Speaker David Ralston. Clark refused to leave on his own and had to be escorted out by police.

Members of the legislature are supposed to undergo testing twice weekly, on Mondays and Thursdays.

Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen said in a statement, without naming Clark, that the “member in question had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session.” The statement said he’ll be able to return once he complies with the testing policy.

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Clark also had his office space in a building adjacent to the Capitol temporarily taken away.

Speaking with reporters shortly after his removal, Clark said that he is abstaining from twice-a-week testing until it is available to everyone in Georgia, particularly teachers and first responders. He did not wear a face mask as he spoke.

“I want no one to get COVID, I want no one to die, but here’s the thing: Are we more valuable than the American people? I’m not,” Clark said.

Testing in Georgia is available to anyone who wants it and is widely accessible.

Clark recently mounted a bid to become House speaker that fizzled after he found little support. He has also pushed false claims that widespread voter fraud changed the results of the November presidential election.

“You know, sometimes this job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Ralston said after having Clark removed. “I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been to too many funerals.”

Nearly 12,000 people in Georgia have died after contracting COVID-19.

Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democrat from Atlanta, said in a tweet that testing is quick and necessary to protect members during the indoor meetings where social distancing isn’t always possible.

“We get tested in the building; it takes (tilde) 60 seconds,” Holcomb said. “Too hard? Stay home.”

House Majority Leader Jon Burns, a Republican from Newington, issued a joint statement with House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Democrat from Macon, applauding Ralston’s decision to have Clark removed.

“We strongly support Speaker David Ralston in his efforts to preserve and protect the health and safety of the members and staff of the House of Representatives and all those who enter the doors of the Georgia State Capitol,” the statement said. “We agree that all Members of the House of Representatives should comply with the testing procedures that have been implemented for their safety and the safety of their fellow Georgians.”

Several members of the state House and Senate have tested positive for the virus since the session began Jan. 11.

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Associated Press writer Jeff Amy contributed to this report.