US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and at least 14 others have tested positive for COVID-19 after covering or attending the Mackinac Policy Conference last week.
In a statement issued Monday afternoon, conference organizer Detroit Regional Chamber indicated it is aware of at least 15 people who tested positive after attending the conference.
Buttigieg joined hundreds of politicians, business leaders, reporters and others at the conference Wednesday on Mackinac Island. He participated in multiple events unmasked, including press conferences and interviews, at times with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“I have tested positive for COVID-19 and am experiencing mild symptoms. I plan to work remotely while isolating according to CDC guidelines, and look forward to when I can safely return to the office and the road,” Buttigieg said.
Although the pair spent substantial time together, Whitmer tested negative Monday morning, said spokesman Bobby Leddy.
“Governor Whitmer continues to test regularly to ensure that she is protecting herself, her family, and those around her every day as she continues to lead our state. The governor took a rapid test this morning, which came back negative,” Leddy said in a statement.
“She is fully up to date on her vaccinations, and is not currently experiencing any symptoms. Governor Whitmer will continue to carry out her duties as governor. We wish Secretary Buttigieg a speedy recovery and hope he feels better soon.”
More:Whitmer, Buttigieg open to state and federal gas tax relief
More:GOP candidate for governor balks at Detroit Chamber debate over COVID-19 requirements
Buttigieg did not indicate when he started experiencing symptoms or whether he believes he contracted the virus at the conference.
The chamber required participants to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination in order to participate in indoor events, or show a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of the conference. A chamber statement indicated the vast majority of the 1,347 conference attendees and staff submitted the required proof of vaccination. Only 14 provided proof of a negative PCR test.
But data and experts show vaccinations do not prevent all infections, though inoculation overwhelmingly reduces the severity of symptoms if someone is infected.
“The individuals testing positive report being asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms, and we wish them a speedy recovery,” reads a statement issued by the chamber.
The chamber faced some pushback from a handful of conservatives who opposed the vaccination or testing mandate. That includes Ryan Kelley, a GOP gubernatorial hopeful who declined to participate in a primary debate hosted at the conference.
However, the chamber held the debate outside and did not require vaccinations or testing for those participating in the debate.
More:Pfizer adds 250 new jobs to Kalamazoo plant, making it only US site to make Paxlovid ingredients
More:Michigan coronavirus cases: Tracking the pandemic
COVID-19 community transmission rates are low in Mackinaw City, but at a medium level on Mackinac Island, according to state data.
The seven-day test positivity rate was about 14% at the end of May, slightly down from the beginning of May but still substantially higher than rates seen in March and April. More than 2.5 million Michiganders have reported contracting COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with more than 36,400 dying from the disease during that time period.
Contact Dave Boucher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.