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7 GOP lawmakers in Arkansas test positive for COVID-19

7 GOP lawmakers in Arkansas test positive for COVID-19
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Seven Republican lawmakers in Arkansas have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past several days as the state reports an increase in infection and hospitalization rates.

The most recent infected lawmaker is state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, a former chairwoman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which first reported Bledsoe’s diagnosis Monday.

Bledsoe's son is the state’s surgeon general and her husband is a chief physician specialist at the state's Department of Health. 

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According to the news outlet, the infections come as the Arkansas lawmakers are scheduled to resume budget hearings for state agencies this week.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that since Oct. 20, six other GOP officials in the Arkansas legislature have announced that they had tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the leaders to initially pause their budget talks. 

In the past week, Arkansas has reported an average of 1,019 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day, an 18 percent increase from just two weeks ago, according to the New York Times's coronavirus database

The state’s health department reported more than 530 new infections on Monday, as well as 21 deaths, bringing the state totals to 106,727 confirmed cases and 1,833 people dead as a result of the virus. 

In July, Arkansas Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonSunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge Active coronavirus cases hit new high in Arkansas Ex-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results MORE (R) issued a statewide mask mandate as cases began to rise in the state and has since supported the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, unlike other Republican lawmakers who have questioned its effectiveness in protecting people from the virus. 

On CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Hutchinson said he disagreed with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s hesitancy to wear masks in public, adding that it was “very concerning” that Trump has claimed the country will soon experience an end to the virus. 

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“Everyone knows that we are going through a very difficult crisis and it’s going to likely get worse as we go into the winter,” the Arkansas governor told CBS anchor Margaret Brennan. 

The rising numbers from Arkansas comes as other states, including Wisconsin and Michigan, have also reported record COVID-19 positivity rates in recent weeks. 

On Friday, the COVID Tracking Project reported more than 83,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country, surpassing the past United States single-day increase record of 75,687 on July 16.