Now, as Alabama once again sees an alarming rise in covid-19, Ainsworth, 39, announced Wednesday that he is among the newly confirmed cases.
“After being notified this afternoon that a member of my Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus, I was tested out of an abundance of caution and received notice that the results proved positive,” Ainsworth said in a statement.
Ainsworth, who has also pushed back on mandatory business closures, is the latest Republican skeptic of government-mandated pandemic rules to test positive for the virus. Earlier on Wednesday, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) published a heartfelt apology for not wearing a mask to a White House event last month linked to more than a dozen coronavirus cases. Christie later spent seven days in an intensive care unit battling covid-19.
“One of the worst aspects of America’s divided politics is the polarization of something as practical as a mask. It’s not a partisan or cultural symbol,” Christie wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Wear it or you may regret it — as I did.”
Unlike Christie, Ainsworth said Wednesday he has consistently obeyed public health guidelines.
“Because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk,” Ainsworth said in his statement.
But some critics noted Ainsworth has regularly shared photos in recent weeks showing him without a mask and in proximity to others. On Oct. 10, Ainsworth tweeted a photo of himself speaking to Trump supporters indoors while not wearing a mask. The day before, he posed mask-free next to GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville. On Oct. 7, he shared a photo in which he spoke without a mask at a fishing tournament.
In a Twitter message to The Washington Post, Ainsworth responded to those criticisms by noting, “I had a mask on at all those events and took it off to speak or take a picture.”
The former state representative has been a prominent — and often contrarian — voice in Alabama’s coronavirus response. In March, he publicly clashed with Ivey after penning a sharp letter accusing the state of failing to procure enough personal protective equipment and not doing enough to free up space for an incoming “tsunami of hospital patients.”
When Ivey locked the state down in April, Ainsworth worked on a report demanding the governor reopen a slew of small businesses, including restaurants and retail shops. In July, he called Ivey’s mask mandate a “one-size-fits-all, big government requirement” and said her order was “the wrong way to go about encouraging their use.”
Like many states, Alabama has seen a recent resurgence of coronavirus cases. The state, which has tallied more than 174,000 cases and 2,800 deaths to date, has recorded more than 5,300 new cases and 49 deaths since last week, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker.
For now, Ainsworth said he is asymptomatic and plans to isolate himself and run follow-up tests to ensure he is virus-free before going back to work in public. His wife, children and mother all tested negative for the virus, he said.