Alaska’s sole representative in the United States House of Representatives and Dean of the House, 87-year-old Don Young, announced on Twitter today that he has tested positive for COVID-19 just eight months after he initially referred to the novel coronavirus as the “beer virus.”
“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,” wrote Young.
The announcement comes nearly eight months after Young spoke at the Mat-Su Senior Services building in Palmer to a gathered crowd of mostly seniors, one day after Gov. Mike Dunleavy had announced the first positive case of coronavirus in Alaska.
“They call it a coronavirus, I call it a beer virus, how do you like that. It attacks our senior citizens. Now I’m one of you. I still say we have to as a nation, as a state to go forth with our everyday activities,” said Young in March. “This is blown out of proportion about how deadly this is. It’s deadly but it’s not nearly as deadly as the other viruses we have, but we respond to I call it the hysteria concept.”
Young is currently ahead in his bid for reelection against Independent Alyse Galvin. Young holds a lead over 40,000 votes, receiving 161,828 to Galvin’s 121,154. Galvin would need to receive over 80 percent of the more than 66,000 votes still left to be counted by the Alaska Division of Elections. Appearing on Dunleavy’s daily COVID-19 press conference with the rest of Alaska’s Federal representation in early April, Young denied he made such comments in Palmer. Young was asked by Liz Ruskin of Alaska Public Media about his comments and his lack of support for the initial coronavirus relief bill.
“No, I didn’t say that number one. Number two I probably would’ve voted for it but that was the very beginning of the pandemic and there was a lot of questions about it then,” said Young. “We can go back in history and decide what’s been said and what has not been said but now we’re facing this, I call a classic problem and we’re handling it well.”
Young later admitted that he did not fully grasp the severity of the pandemic at the time he referred to COVID-19 as the ‘beer virus.’ On Thursday, there were 477 new COVID-19 cases announced among residents in Alaska with a total of 20,688 resident cases statewide. There are 14,080 Alaska residents with active cases of COVID-19 and there have been 520 hospitalizations since March and 96 people have died due to COVID-19. Currently, 11 percent of Alaska’s hospitalized population is suffering from COVID-19. There have been 1,124 nonresident cases statewide and 475 remain active. Dunleavy issued a notification that alerted cell phones throughout Alaska on Thursday morning with a prepared video on the Governor’s YouTube page.
“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. We know from experience that distance is the primary tool that works in the battle against this virus. Please stay six feet apart from all non household members. If you cannot do that, if you cannot stay six feet apart, I’m asking everyone to wear a mask in any and every setting,” said Dunleavy.
In the Mat-Su, three more deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to five. There were 40 new cases announced on Thursday and 16 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Another two people are awaiting testing results and suspected to be hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those hospitalized in the Mat-Su, 17 percent are hospitalized with COVID-19 and 32 people have been hospitalized throughout the course of the pandemic.Only two of the 14 available Intensive Care Unit beds are not in use. The Mat-Su has had 2,142 resident cases and 1,586 remain active. There have been 27 nonresident cases in the Mat-Su and 13 remain active. Mat-Su residents have received 49,286 tests and the seven-day test positivity rate is at 12.78 percent. Dunleavy has not issued a statewide mask mandate and reiterated at nearly every press conference he has held that his administration believes that power to mandate masks and limit gathering sizes lies with local governments, many of whom disagree with the Governor’s assessment. Dunleavy issued a new 30-day disaster declaration that begins on Monday.
“If we can buy time for our critical workers, if we can keep our systems operational, we can avoid being forced to take further action, but if we cannot reduce the spread of this virus we reduce our future options for how to proceed,” said Dunleavy. “No matter what you believe about the virus, the facts are the facts. Hospitalizations and sick healthcare workers are reaching untenable levels. We must act together now while we still have choices.”