GOP official said he 'felt like I was going into a den of virus' after catching COVID-19 at a nearly-maskless Republican meeting
- A Michigan GOP official raged at state party officials after catching COVID-19 after a party meeting.
- Jason Watts attended an indoor meeting after some officials petitioned for his removal after he criticized Trump to The New York Times.
- Watts told MLive that masks and vaccines “shouldn’t have a political party.”
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
A local GOP official in Michigan tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a nearly-maskless party meeting discussing a petition to fire him, Michigan Live reported Wednesday.
Jason Watts, an elections official in Allegan County, Michigan, and party treasurer in the 6th Congressional District, told MLive on Tuesday that he was one of at least three people he saw wearing a mask at the March 31 meeting, which took place at an indoor restaurant.
The meeting was called because some officials were petitioning to remove him as treasurer after he criticized former President Donald Trump in an interview with The New York Times. He said he felt required to be at the meeting in person because “there was no Zoom option.”
Watts said he attended the meeting wearing two cloth masks but noticed that others were not wearing any masks at all.
“I felt like I was going into a den of virus,” he told MLive, estimating that there were about 70 people in attendance.
The restaurant, Travelers Café and Pub in Portage, Michigan, was operating under the state’s restaurant restrictions — reducing occupancy by 50%, allowing 80 people indoors, General Manager Brandon Jeannot told MLive. Jeannot added that staff generally encourage guests to wear masks if walking around the restaurant but are permitted to take off masks at their tables while eating.
After the meeting, Watts tested positive for COVID-19. At least four Michigan Republicans — up to as many as eight — also tested positive following the meeting, the Chicago Tribune reported. Two weeks after the meeting, Watts is still in recovery at a hospital in Grand Rapids.
Kalamazoo County Republican Chair Scott McGraw said he believes that appropriate precautions were taken in order to have the indoor meeting.
“We had a meeting,” McGraw told MLive. “Some people got COVID unfortunately after the meeting. I assume it was from the meeting but I can’t really pinpoint what these people were doing before and after a meeting. I just think you can still follow all the rules and the virus can spread easily.”
McGraw, who was vaccinated before the March 31 party meeting, said “there’s a faction of the Republican Party who don’t want to get the vaccine,” and encourages others to get the vaccine and wear masks.
“I would think it would probably have its roots in in our resolve for freedoms,” McGraw told MLive about some people being resistant to taking health precautions against COVID-19, but he said he does not have the same reluctance to follow them.
McGraw did not immediately respond to Insider’s questions regarding the March 31 event.
Watts slammed other Republicans who refused to wear masks and get vaccinated in general, saying a mask and a vaccine “shouldn’t have a political party.”
“But we’ve conjured these things to have these connotations,” Watts told MLive. “People are getting sick. And to put these connotations on these things does nobody any good.”
Insider has reached out to Scott McGraw, chair of the 6th District, for comment.
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