John Schroder on 121417

State Treasurer John Schroder opens his first Bond Commission meeting as chairman on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder tested positive for COVID-19 before Thanksgiving and experienced breathing difficulties this week that required him to be admitted to the hospital, making the Republican one of more than 1,300 Louisianans hospitalized with the virus as the state weathers a third surge of the pandemic.

The announcement came the same day that Congressman Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, said he was quarantining after being exposed to someone – not Schroder – who tested positive for the virus. Also Thursday, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, revealed he tested positive for the virus weeks ago, without announcing it, and has since recovered.

Schroder’s office said Thursday he tested positive for the virus “shortly before Thanksgiving” and was hospitalized this week. It was unclear if he was receiving supplemental oxygen or where he was hospitalized. Schroder, 59, lives in Covington.

“He is responding well. He is comfortable. And he is texting up a storm,” Michelle Millhollon, a spokesperson for Schroder, said in a statement. “Because he had to cancel meetings and step away from the Main Street Recovery Program, he wanted to inform the public about his condition. He encourages everyone to protect themselves as best they can from this virus and hopes to be back at the State Capitol by the first of the year."

Schroder, a Republican who assumed office in 2017 during a special election and was re-elected last year, oversees the state’s finances as well as a $275 million grant program for small businesses hit by the pandemic. His office said he is “experiencing little discomfort.”

Millhollon said in an email that "no other staffers tested positive because of exposure to the Treasurer. When cases escalated statewide, we asked as many staff as possible to work from home." She did not respond to a query about how many staffers had to quarantine after being exposed to Schroder.

Schroder is one of many Louisiana politicians to test positive for the virus, including at least one — Rep. Reggie Bagala — who died from the virus.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Senate President Page Cortez and other state lawmakers have also contracted the disease, which has killed more than 6,000 Louisianans.

Zach Barnett, a spokesman for Graves, said the congressman has not been around Schroder, and is driving back from Washington, D.C. to Louisiana. Barnett did not respond to questions about how Graves intends to drive safely while quarantining. The CDC recommends people who are exposed to the virus to “stay home and monitor your health” for 14 days. The agency came out with new recommendations this week that say people can quarantine for 10 days without experiencing symptoms, or seven days with a negative test result and no symptoms.

Schroder was at a Joint Budget Committee meeting with state lawmakers as recently as Nov. 20th. It was not immediately clear when he tested positive for the virus or whether any staff members were exposed and quarantined.

Central Republican state Sen. Bodi White, who attended the Joint Budget meeting as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he did not receive word from Schroder’s office that he was exposed to him during the budget meeting. White said he independently received a negative test recently before going on a hunting trip in Mississippi after experiencing symptoms related to a sinus infection.

Schroder spent nine years in the Legislature as a state representative before being elected Treasurer, a statewide position, succeeding U.S. Sen. John Kennedy. He was a businessman from Covington.

His hospitalization comes as Louisiana remains firmly in a third surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations taking place across the U.S. The White House Coronavirus Task Force this week warned “the COVID risk to all Americans is at a historic high.”

“It must be made clear that if you are over 65 or have significant health conditions, you should not enter any indoor public spaces where anyone is unmasked due to the immediate risk to your health; you should have groceries and medications delivered,” the report said.

Email Sam Karlin at skarlin@theadvocate.com