A state lawmaker who has flouted the Legislature’s rules on mask-wearing and downplayed the pandemic says he has contracted COVID-19.

Rep. Chris Johansen Photo from Maine Legislature

Rep. Chris A. Johansen, R-Monticello, on Friday told the Press Herald only that he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t stay on the phone long enough to be asked whether he has the virus. However, a reporter for Mainer News, an alternative weekly, contacted Johansen and recorded him saying that he has COVID-19 and is “really, really sick.”

Johansen’s wife, Cindy Johansen, who is an officer for the Aroostook County Republican committee, posted on Facebook that she has COVID-19 as well.

Contacted by the Press Herald on Friday afternoon, Chris Johansen said, “I’m not doing well. I’m not feeling well, and I’m not talking to people right now,” and then he hung up. He did not reply to a text message seeking more information.

In postings on Facebook, Cindy Johansen said she was told she had COVID-19 and also has asthma. She also said she passed out on the garage floor and her “legs were like rubber.” Health officials have said that people with moderate-to-severe or uncontrolled asthma are more likely to require hospitalization if they get COVID-19.

Both Johansens have shared posts on Facebook downplaying the pandemic and mocking vaccines.

Chris Johansen was one of seven lawmakers who appeared maskless in a video taken in a State House office in January in violation of a legislative rule that masks be worn inside the building to control the spread of COVID-19. He was also one of seven lawmakers who had a confrontation with Capitol police in May when they entered the State House without wearing masks.

Gov. Janet Mills had recently lifted the mask requirement for most buildings in the state, but lawmakers had not yet amended their rules on mask-wearing in the State House. Johansen and the other six lawmakers lost their committee assignments because of the violation of legislative rules.

Maine is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases and health officials said new variants are surging among unvaccinated people across the country.

Some elected Republicans have expressed frustration in recent days about vaccine hesitancy or hostility within their own party. Polls consistenly have shown that Republicans are far more likely to avoid getting the vaccine.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday was asked by a reporter what it would take for more people to get shots in arms. Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

“I don’t know, you tell me,” Ivey snapped. “Folks are supposed to have common sense. It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks letting us down.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also made another plea this week for people to get vaccinated and said he wished people would stop listening to bad advice and listen to doctors instead. His state of Kentucky has a vaccination rate of 45 percent, which is more than 15 percentage points lower than Maine’s.

Other Republicans, however, are doubling down on their criticism of COVID-19 vaccines. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has regularly been sharing misinformation about vaccines and casting doubt about their safety, and he’s not alone.


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