An Alaska GOP lawmaker banned from flying on the state’s leading airline for refusing to wear a mask, and therefore unable to travel to and from the state capital, has now tested positive for the coronavirus, she said.
State Sen. Lora Reinbold, a Republican representing an Anchorage suburb, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday night that it was her "turn to battle Covid head on."
"Game on! Who do you think is going to win?" Reinbold wrote of her infection. "When I defeat it, I will tell you my recipe."
Another Republican state senator, David Wilson of Wasilla also tested positive this week and is quarantining at home. State Sen. Click Bishop, a Republican representing Fairbanks, is feeling ill, but tested negative for the virus, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Reinbold, a vocal critic of vaccine and mask mandates, was banned indefinitely by Alaska Airlines in the spring after she clashed with staff over the airline mask mandate issued by federal transportation officials. After Delta Air Lines stopped its service from her district to Juneau last month, Alaska Airlines was left as the only commercial carrier that flies between the two cities from now through the end of the year.
As a result, Reinbold was excused from attending floor votes for the rest of the year.
The Transportation Security Administration requires all air travelers to wear face coverings on flights, during boarding and deplaning, and while in the airport. Alaska Airlines banned Reinbold from its flights on April 24, the company told The Washington Post last month.
"Since then, a review did happen and the suspension was upheld," the company said in an emailed statement.
Reinbold did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday. She wrote on Facebook that she was using a variety of products to help treat her infection, including vitamins and a Vicks steamer.
The GOP lawmaker said she was also taking ivermectin - an anti-parasitic medication that's been promoted by prominent conservative media figures and politicians, and some physicians, as an effective treatment for covid-19. There is a lack of scientific evidence showing benefits of the drug for that purpose, and the Food and Drug Administration and other public health agencies have emphasized that ivermectin is not authorized for treating covid-19.
"I am blessed to have gotten Ivirmectin the 'de-covider,' " she wrote. "My Vicks steamer has been a God send!"
The news comes as the nationwide back and forth over coronavirus mandates in schools, hospitals and businesses continues at a time when companies have been firing people for not getting vaccinated.
Some groups have pushed back against mandates. In Chicago, the city's police union has urged officers to "hold the line" over the city's vaccine mandate and ignore a deadline to report their vaccination status.
The debate has also played out in the courts. A federal judge in New York ruled Tuesday that the state could not impose vaccine mandates on health-care workers unless employers were allowed to consider religious exemption requests.
Alaska, like much of the country, has seen infection numbers decline after a summer surge fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant. The state is averaging more than 860 new daily infections, according to data tracked by The Post. More than 200 people in Alaska are hospitalized for covid-19, a slight uptick compared to the previous seven-day average.
More than 51%of the state is fully vaccinated - a rate that trails the national rate of 56.6%.
Reinbold has been a vocal opponent of mandates since early in the pandemic. She has used committee hearings to criticize Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy's pandemic rules and promotes misinformation about masking and vaccines on her Facebook page.
She refused to don a mask in the legislature, instead wearing a clear shield over her face, and unsuccessfully fought the mask mandate at the state Capitol. Reinbold recently showed up to an Anchorage Assembly meeting to oppose a proposed citywide mask ordinance.
Her actions have turned her into something of a pariah among her fellow legislators. In the spring, lawmakers voted to remove her as chair of the judiciary committee after the governor accused her of spreading misinformation about the virus, the Daily News reported. She was also briefly banned from most of the building for refusing to follow mask rules.
Dunleavy accused her of misrepresenting the state's pandemic response in a February letter.
Her dispute with Alaska Airlines began last fall, when she posted a Facebook screed calling airline workers "mask bullies" for telling her to wear her face covering.
In April, a police officer responded to an Alaska Airlines terminal in Juneau where Reinbold was bickering with employees. Shortly after, the airline banned her "for her continued refusal to comply with employee instruction regarding the current mask policy," the airline said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Though it's not impossible to travel by car from Anchorage to Juneau, Reinbold said the trip is roughly 800 miles and takes two days of travel. It also includes a five-hour ferry connection.
State Senate President Peter Micciche, R, said the absence of Reinbold and the two other Republican legislators has contributed to the chamber's inability to hammer out negotiations on a dividend fund linked to the state budget, the Daily News reported.
Despite her illness, Reinbold has continued speaking out against mandates on social media this week. She also vowed to get better.
“I plan to keep my promise to stay OUT of the hospital,” she wrote. “Some of them seem like scary places these days.”