Sen. Chris Larson reports a positive COVID test, will isolate

By: - April 14, 2021 8:30 pm
COVID molecules coronavirus

Coronavirus COVID-19 computer generated image. (Getty Images)

State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said Wednesday he had tested positive for the coronavirus, requiring him to isolate himself until the infection clears in the coming weeks.

Sen. Chris Larson via WisEye
Sen. Chris Larson (Screen capture | Wisconsin Eye)

The diagnosis Wednesday followed a positive test in his 6-year-old daughter, Larson said, and came after a small socially distanced gathering involving the children of friends. Everyone was masked, he said, and the get-together only lasted an hour. While it’s not certain that’s how his family members contracted the virus, “that’s what instigated us to get tested over the weekend,” Larson told the Wisconsin Examiner.

“Children can get and spread the coronavirus and I hope that no one has to learn this the hard way,” Larson said in a statement issued by his office. “Like 587,000 other Wisconsin neighbors over the past year, my daughter and I are resting, hydrating, isolating, and focusing on recovery.”

In an interview, Larson said he has had the first shot of a two-shot vaccine series. He said he hoped that will mitigate his symptoms, which have so far been mild.

Larson has been outspoken in the Senate in his complaints that the Legislature’s Republican leaders haven’t acted strongly enough in response to the pandemic. He said getting the illness only reinforced his concerns. At the start of the pandemic, “I made a list of the things we would need to get back to normal,” Larson said. “Only one of those is done — and that is the vaccine.”

One of the unfulfilled items on that list has been stronger contact tracing. “I do wish we had a more robust contact tracing from the very beginning — just being able to clearly track where this is and who’s getting it,” Larson said. 

He considers faster and widespread test results another necessity. The whole family got tested over the weekend and his daughter was positive, but Larson said he and his son’s tests were negative. They got tested again Monday after developing symptoms; Larson’s came back positive Wednesday but his son’s test results hadn’t arrived by mid-afternoon. 

“They tell everyone to isolate and don’t see anybody in the meantime, and we haven’t,” Larson said. “But I cannot imagine anybody who’s working is going to say, ‘Yeah, sorry. I’m going to take off for two days until we find this out.’”

With mutations circulating that are even more contagious, “you need to have quick test results, so you know exactly where it is.”

Workplaces need to better accommodate illness, he adds. “You need to have policies in place where those that are doing the right thing are rewarded and not punished,” Larson says, and policies should prevent workers from losing pay if they have to isolate while awaiting a test result. 

Minimum- and low-wage workers, whose health benefits are tied to their jobs if they have them at all, face tough choices, he says, unable to “do anything other than either quit or continue to go to work and infect more people.”

Because of his diagnosis, Larson had to take an excused absence from Wednesday’s Senate floor session. He says he had asked permission to attend remotely and was denied, so he followed the debate by watching on Wisconsin Eye.

“We did reach out,” he said. “But I did not have a high expectation that I would get an accommodation.”

The Senate began the 2021 session allowing members to attend remotely, but dropped that accommodation after a few weeks.

“This is unfortunately the same group that decided to move into in-person session without requiring masks for no reason at all,” Larson said. And on Wednesday, he noted, leaders relaxed seating guidelines that had kept lawmakers physically distant. 


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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.