Just as the seriousness and severity of coronavirus’ impact on everyday life was coming into focus last week, Alaska’s U.S. Rep. Don Young had just arrived in Alaska from Washington, D.C. to deliver a dismissive message to seniors and business leaders in Mat-Su Senior Services building in Palmer on Friday.
“I say the exciting part about if you just look even in China where this thing originated, it peaked and it’s going down. It will happen here in the United States,” said Young, according to a report published Tuesday in the Mat-Su Frontiersman. “This beer virus I call it, 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.”
Read the full report by reporter Tim Rockey here: Congressman speaks to Chambers of Commerce at Mat-Su Senior Center
Young, who’s long been a source of embarrassing and out-of-touch statements, took it to new heights on Friday as the country began to settle into social distancing, canceling travel and closing schools and the day after Alaska announced the discovery of its first confirmed case of the virus.
This week, we’ve seen the statewide closure of restaurants and bars to sit-in dining as well as the mass closure of public facilities like libraries and pools. The state announced last week limited access to the state’s nursing home facilities and on Tuesday night announced the complete closure of Pioneer Homes to visitors.
Health experts have said that people over 60 and those with pre-existing health conditions are at a particularly high risk. Young is 86.
As legislators and the governor have swung into action to help defend Alaska’s businesses and workers from the economic fallout of the pandemic, Young missed Friday’s vote on the House’s coronavirus relief package and attended a NRA fundraiser on Saturday night, posing side by side with others for pictures.
“You’re in a high risk group. You’re supposed to self-quarantine at home,” one person wrote in response to his NRA fundraiser pictures. “You’re not leading by example.”
Young had a fundraiser scheduled in Anchorage on Monday night, which appears would have been held if not for Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s order to close bars and restaurants to in-person dining. That order was expanded statewide by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday night following the announcement of three additional cases.
At the chamber of commerce meeting, Young encouraged people to be good about washing their hands but pledged to continue shaking hands.