A top Republican leader in Michigan was left seething after having to attend a maskless political meeting at a restaurant which ultimately led to him contracting COVID-19.
According to MLive, Jason Watts, treasurer of the 6th District Republican Party in Michigan, attended a dinner meeting for his organization on Thursday, March 31. The Republican official noted that he felt obligated to attend due to hushed conversations about the possibility of him being ousted due to his criticism of former President Donald Trump.
"I was required to go," Watts said. "There was no Zoom option."
When he arrived at the restaurant in Portage, Mich., he was alarmed to see that meeting attendees were nearly maskless. According to Watts, he was one of approximately three attendees who wore a mask while the meeting was underway.
During an interview with the publication, Watts shared his reaction to what he saw when he walked in. "I felt like I was going into a den of virus," Watts admitted.
Shortly after attending the meeting, Watts tested positive for COVID. He also estimated that approximately 6 others became ill after attending the meeting, the publication reports.
Now, nearly two weeks later, he is still in the hospital recovering from the virus. The frustrated Republican leader weighed in on the politicization of masks and the vaccine as he criticized the efforts to undermine public health practices.
"A mask shouldn't have a political party," Watts said. "A vaccine shouldn't have a political party, but we've conjured these things to have these connotations."
Matt Johnson, a Public Information Officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), also weighed in with critical remarks about the meeting. He made it clear that they were aware of similar violations.
"This has been on our radar as well as all facilities that hold meetings that may be in violation of the MDHHS Epidemic Orders," Johnson said on Tuesday. "At this time, we do not have enough information to state that this was an outbreak or super spreader event."
Despite Watts concerns and the report about maskless attendees, Brandon Jeannot, the general manager for the Travelers Café, insists the restaurant always adheres to state guidelines for coronavirus mitigation.
According to Jeannot, when a customer is seen without a mask, staffers politely ask the person to wear a mask. He also insists that the restaurant operates at 50% capacity, which is currently the state's guideline.
As of Wednesday, April 14, the state of Michigan has reported more than 840,000 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 17,657 individuals have died in the state due to complications of the virus.