GOP senator who just got COVID complains of 'unjustifiable hysteria'

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Sen. Ron Johnson downplayed the virus even as it continues to spread across the country — and the White House.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Monday downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus in a radio interview, two days after announcing that he had tested positive for it.

"Why do we think we actually can stop the progression of a contagious disease? Now, if we were [facing] something like Ebola that takes more than 40% of people or MERS which is 30, or even SARS, which is like 8%, you take more extraordinary measures," he told a Denver radio host.

"There's a level of unjustifiable hysteria," he said, before claiming he was "not downplaying it."

"The truth is most people who get COVID are going to be just fine," Johnson said.

Doctors are still learning about the long-term damage the virus causes to organs. A significant percentage of people who survive the initial bout with the virus experience serious ongoing symptoms.

Asked about the politics of the disease, Johnson blasted the press for pushing "unrealistic mass hysteria" around the notion that Donald Trump could have done more. "The president did a lot more than anybody wanted him to," Johnson claimed, citing Trump's partial shutdown of travel from China and Europe and his few other actions.

"I'll still say it, I'll probably get beat up in the press for this. We should have followed the Sweden model. Isolate the sick, quarantine them, protect the vulnerable, and allow the rest of society to carry on with life as carefully as possible," he said.

Johnson is one of a large and growing number of Republican lawmakers and officials, including Donald Trump, who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week. After having a test done last week, Johnson attended a fundraising event while waiting to learn the result. He later justified not self-quarantining by noting that he was asymptomatic — ignoring the fact that asymptomatic carriers can still spread the virus.

Public health experts have made it clear that widespread mask use would be hugely helpful in curbing the spread of the coronavirus. But like Trump, Johnson has staunchly opposed mask mandates and has continued to do so even after he tested positive.

To date, almost 210,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. More than 1,300 of those deaths have been in Johnson's home state of Wisconsin, which currently has one of the highest per capita number of cases of any state in the country.

Later in the interview, Johnson vowed to break quarantine if necessary to vote in the Senate to confirm Trump's nominee Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the election. "If we have to go in and vote, I've already told leadership I'll go in a moon suit," he said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.