Rep. Lisa McClain represents Michigan’s most COVID-positive region right now, and residents are calling her out for downplaying the pandemic.

MARYSVILLE, Mich.—The coronavirus is ravaging Michigan’s 10th district, but the member of Congress representing it, Republican Rep. Lisa McClain, is not addressing its fate. 

McClain toured the 10th district in late March, speaking mostly to her own supporters in the largely white, rural communities of Michigan’s Thumb. During her March tour, she removed her mask, encouraging the crowd to join in the risky behavior violating pandemic safety practices. 

Meanwhile, Michigan has become the newest COVID-19 epicenter. Over 8,000 Michiganders were diagnosed with the virus on Saturday, April 3 alone. This spike brought Michigan to the top of the list for states with dire coronavirus outbreaks.

Most of those positive cases are currently found in the thumb, the area McClain serves.

Looking at test positivity rates published by the state, The ‘Gander has confirmed that McClain’s district has far and away the worst spread of the virus in Michigan. In terms of virus spread, the Thumb is the worst congressional district in the worst state in America. Sanilac, St. Clair, Huron, Macomb, Lapeer, and Tuscola counties are facing absolute devastation during this wave of the pandemic. 

But McClain pushes to see COVID-related restrictions lifted, leaving more of her constituents at risk.

Reopen All the Things

Ellen Yope, from St. Clair, was present when McClain spoke to constituents in Marysville in late March as the cases continued to climb in the small town communities of St. Clair County. 

“Well, she certainly wasn’t offering any substantial solutions and wasn’t modeling appropriate behavior regarding masks,” Yope recounted to The ‘Gander. “Really the whole thing was to have people agree with her opinions without answering any of the real policy questions with a direct answer.”

McClain’s comments focused on pushing for schools to reopen, which surprised Yope. As a substitute teacher, Yope had just come from teaching in person her school was definitely open and offering in person instruction. While some of the school districts in McClain’s district are presently virtual, that decision is being made by the individual school districts, she explained. 

But schools aren’t the only thing McClain wants reopened.

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Marysville sits along the St. Clair River, a two mile stretch of water that serves as the natural border between the United States and Canada. Just north of Marysville, also in McClain’s district, is one of Michigan’s major international border crossings—the iconic Blue Water Bridge. McClain wants to see that bridge used again for nonessential travel between Canada and the US

The American side of the bridge is St. Clair County. St. Clair County’s seven-day average of 242 cases eclipses neighboring Canadian Lambton County’s seven-day average of 11 cases. Lambton’s health department admits it has experienced its own spikes that the closed border protected St. Clair from as well, notably in January 2021.

But that stark difference wouldn’t move McClain. In her discussion in Marysville, video captured her downplaying the pandemic that is burning through the Thumb. 

“We Don’t Ban Swimming Pools”

Arguing for reopening these services despite the pandemic, she compared the number of people who die of the coronavirus to those who die from drowning. In 2008, drowning was determined to be a leading cause of death for Michigan children, with an average of 810 deaths per year. 

“But we don’t ban swimming pools,” McClain told her constituents.

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Over the past year, nearly 100,000 Michiganders under 19 have contracted the coronavirus. And while fewer than 100 of those Michigan youths have died, unlike drowning the coronavirus is contagious. And since only around 100 total Michiganders drowned in 2019, the comparison to the 16,000 dead Michiganders from the virus misses the mark.

Yet, McClain remains focused on reopening as much as possible as quickly as possible, and with little to no plan for doing so safely. 

The ‘Gander asked for specific plans to accomplish reopening Michigan in such a high-risk environment while keeping her constituents safe as well as about the concerns raised regarding the accuracy of her statements. McClain’s office did not respond.