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'I finally got my wish': State senator contracts COVID-19
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'I finally got my wish': State senator contracts COVID-19

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Sen. Mike Groene

Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte holds up a spreadsheet as he speaks during debate in February.

State Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte says he will not be attending the Legislature's gathering in Mullen this week. 

He has COVID-19, he told Executive Board Chairman Mike Hilgers and other senators in a Monday afternoon email.  

"As you know, I finally got my wish and cont(r)acted the COVID-19 virus," he wrote in the email. "As I suspected it would happen." 

In an interview, Groene said he wanted it over with; he wanted herd immunity.

The American Medical Association says the country needs about 200 million infected and immunized citizens before the chain of infection can be broken. At this time there's been slightly more than 10 million cases in the United States and no distributed vaccine. 

With cases surging in Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday he will enact further medical directives beginning Wednesday to help slow the spread of the virus and protect hospital capacity. 

Ricketts institutes additional measures to fight COVID-19

Groene is one of the senators who does not wear a mask, at least he didn't during the July/August legislative session wrap-up, or to numerous hearings he's attended. 

He said he believes he picked up the virus while attending a Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center legislative oversight committee hearing Oct. 23, where contact tracers said he could have been exposed, or an Education Committee hearing Oct. 27.

A Department of Health and Human Services contact tracer told him the last day he would "possibly" need to quarantine would be Tuesday, Nov. 10.

"I therefore could attend the meeting (in Mullen), but no matter, I plan not to," he told Hilgers. "I have other pressing matters to attend to."

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The Legislative Council meeting will be held all day Thursday and Friday morning. A number of senators have told Hilgers they do not plan to attend, instead will take part remotely.

Hilgers said Monday he will follow the new guidelines put in place by Ricketts. That now includes a reduction in capacity at indoor gatherings from 50% to 25%.

Groene told Hilgers he appreciated his diligence in following the requirements of the law for the purposes of the meeting and also for his persistence in having the conference for those who want to attend if they choose to do so. 

"It used to be called freedom," he said. 

He also admired Hilgers' integrity, he wrote in the email, for not being swayed by the fear  of meeting. 

Groene said his symptoms were "no more than a minor flu" that lasted 10 days. He had night sweats, and an afternoon fever of about 100 degrees for three days. The blessing, he said, is he was able to catch up on needed sleep and is now invigorated as he prepares for the legislative session, which begins in January. 

That wasn't the case for Sen. Mike Moser of Columbus, who contracted the virus in May and spent five weeks hospitalized with impaired lungs. Still, Groene said he knows a lot of people that are continuing to go about their lives and who don't live in fear. 

"I had it, I got over it, and everything's fine," he said. "I have no unique story. This happens 99.9% of the time."

His disappointment is that it took four days to get his test results back. In rural Nebraska it's taking too long for turnaround of the tests, he said. 

He said his wife has had no symptoms. 

Groene said he plans to give blood in the future to aid those who could use the interferon plasma therapy. And he hopes that will encourage others to do the same. 

Photos: The scene in Lincoln with coronavirus

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature

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