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Georgia senator who contracted coronavirus leaves Florida beach house after local outcry

A state senator from Georgia who travelled to his Florida beach house to recuperate from a case of Covid-19 has headed home after the local sheriff called him "irresponsible" — and assigned a police detail to enforce a two-week quarantine.

Bruce Thompson, who represents Georgia's 14th state senate district, was hospitalised with symptoms of Covid-19 in mid-March. He spent several days in intensive care, and was at one point unable to breathe unassisted.

In a Facebook post on 22 March summarising the experience, he wrote: "Thank you to the amazing healthcare workers at Northside Cherokee who provided first class service — they and thousands of others across the country are on the frontlines in this battle.

"I ask everyone to join me in doing your part to #FlattenTheCurve and #StayHome as we fight the spread of Covid-19."

It was after this that Mr Thompson went to his vacation home in Florida's Franklin County, despite restrictions on travel. Local residents, who are on orders to stay at home to help slow the virus's spread, raised the alarm with the authorities when they saw out-of-town visitors arriving in a convoy of three cars.

In a video released on Facebook after Mr Thompson's arrival, Franklin County sheriff A.J. Smith said it was "particularly upsetting that someone from another county who has the virus or had the virus would come here and expose us in a county that has had no positive reactions to it yet".

In an exchange with the Tallahassee Democrat, Mr Smith put it more sharply: "His driver's licence is in Georgia. His voter's registration is in Georgia, so just practice what you preach and don't come here. It's ridiculous. It's so selfish of this person to do this."

Shortly after Mr Smith assigned the police watch on the gated residence, Mr Thompson departed. As the Franklin County Sheriff's Office told the paper: "As a result of surveillance on Senator Bruce Thompson's residence on St. George Island, Senator Thompson called Sheriff A.J. Smith to advise he would return to Georgia."

As of 1 April, Georgia had confirmed 4,748 cases of Covid-19, with 154 deaths; Florida, meanwhile, 7,765 cases and 100 deaths. Franklin County has yet to confirm a single positive diagnosis.

In his video chastising Mr Thompson for choosing to recuperate in his county, Mr Smith acknowledged that life under coronavirus control measures is not easy, and that the stakes for his county are high.

"I understand a lot of people are going through hard times right now, and this is what I tried to explain to the senator yesterday, is that we're scared, a lot of people don't want to contract this disease, a lot of people are sacrificing major now, they're out of jobs, they're not working, and it's a very critical time for us, a very scary time for us.

"Again, we're asking people not to come to the county, we closed vacation rentals down, restaurants and bars are closed, so we're asking people not to come here, so again, I don't really understand why he would choose this time to come."

Other Georgia state senators besides Mr Thompson have tested positive for coronavirus, among them the 21st district's Brandon Beach. When it transpired that Mr Beach had come to the statehouse to vote despite showing symptoms, a fellow senator said he was "shaking with rage".

Mr Thompson has been contacted for comment.

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