Rep. Don Young of Alaska, fresh off re-election to his 25th term in Congress, said Thursday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
“I have tested positive for COVID-19,” Young announced in a tweet. “I am feeling strong, following proper protocols, working from home in Alaska, and ask for privacy at this time. May God Bless Alaska.”
Young, 87, is the oldest person in Congress. People in Young’s age group are considered particularly high-risk for serious complications from the virus. Nearly 70,000 Americans over the age of 85 have died from the coronavirus so far this year, according to the CDC, accounting for 31% of all COVID-19 deaths—by far the largest share.
Young publicly mocked and downplayed the pandemic earlier this year. “I call it the beer virus. How do you like that?” he told a group of seniors in March, referring to the Corona beer brand.
“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.”
Alaska, like most other states around the country, is dealing with the worst wave of the pandemic it’s seen so far. More than 21,000 Alaskans have tested positive since March and 96 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Alaska currently has one of the nation’s lowest COVID death rates, which state officials have credited to its relatively young population and pandemic preparedness. But the state has entered uncharted territory; roughly half of Alaska's positive cases and 38% of its deaths have occured within the past month.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, sent a statewide emergency text message to Alaskans Thursday with a link to a YouTube video, in which he pleaded for the state’s residents to take the coronavirus seriously.
“If we are going to keep our hospitals running and businesses open, all Alaskans must return to the same mindset that worked so well this past spring,” Dunleavy said.