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Coronavirus Outbreak Hits Mississippi Legislature

At least 26 members of Mississippi's legislature have tested positive for the coronavirus after weeks of working at the state Capitol — often absent face masks and social distancing.

Both Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn are among those who have tested positive. At least 10 others who work in the building have also tested positive, The Associated Press reported, citing the state health officer.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said on Tuesday that both he and his daughters tested negative, and that he had limited contact with those who tested positive. Reeves urged others to get tested.

"If you have been in contact with anyone in the Legislature, or if you have been in contact with any staff person that works at the Legislature, you need to get tested," the Republican governor said, according to the AP.

News of the outbreak follows a particularly busy time for the legislature. Over the past few weeks, members have discussed budgets and voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state's flag. Proceedings around the flag brought more people to the Capitol.

This marks yet another delay for the session. The first happened in March, at the start of the nationwide coronavirus outbreak, and lawmakers were sent home. Upon returning in May, they took precautions including social distancing, but over time those health measures slackened, the AP said.

The legislature still has at least two outstanding budget issues to address, but lawmakers will have to wait at least two weeks before picking back up. The delay caused by a 14-day quarantine could cause more issues for the state's education and marine resources departments, according to The Clarion Ledger.

Mississippi reported 797 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 15 new deaths. Overall, the state has reported at least 35,419 cases and 1,230 deaths.

On Friday, Gov. Reeves issued an order mandating the use of masks in 13 counties after a rise in cases and resulting hospitalizations.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.