By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The Alaska congressman who once ridiculed the seriousness of the novel coronavirus, calling it the “beer virus,” said on Thursday he is now infected with it.
The announcement by Representative Don Young comes as the state's governor on Thursday warned that health-care and public-safety systems were at risk of being overwhelmed by the rapid spread of the virus across Alaska.
Young, the 87-year-old Republican who is Alaska's sole U.S. House of Representatives member, made the announcement on Twitter.
"I have tested positive for COVID-19. I am feeling strong, following proper protocols, working from home in Alaska, and ask for privacy at this time," he said on the Twitter post.
Young, who was just re-elected to his 25th term and is the longest-serving member of Congress, said in March that COVID-19 concerns were “created primarily by hysteria.”
"I call it the beer virus. How do you like that?" he said in a March speech at a senior center in Palmer, Alaska, in a mocking reference to Corona beer. "Anyway, it attacks us senior citizens. I'm one of you. I still say we have to as a nation, as a state, to go forth with the everyday activities."
Governor Mike Dunleavy on Thursday sent an emergency text to state mobile phones with a link to a video warning about “escalating” COVID-19 cases.
"No matter what you believe about the virus, the facts are the facts. Hospitalizations and sick health-care workers are reaching untenable levels,” the Republican governor said in a the video.
(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)