Arkansas senator Jason Rapert reciting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: (Arkansas PBS – YouTube)

An Arkansas senator who shared an article that described the coronavirus pandemic as a “hoax” has contracted Covid-19.

Republican senator Jason Rapert, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill to ban gay marriage in the US in 2017, was hospitalised with coronavirus and pneumonia on 24 July.

Earlier in the year, as many states were beginning to take social distancing measures to attempt to control the spread of the virus, Mr Rapert shared an article on Facebook that called the pandemic the “biggest political hoax in history”.

He has been critical of policies taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 in various social media posts over the last few months and was filmed last week not wearing a face mask at a church service, according to Raw Story.

Although the senator has been pictured wearing a mask previously, he has also been critical of Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson’s executive order that made wearing a face covering mandatory in the state when people are outside and when social distancing is not possible.

Mr Rapert described the mandate as “an overreach of executive power without consultation with the members of the Arkansas legislature,” in a social media post last week.

The senator added: “I understand the governor has expanded authority during a declared state of emergency, but with most people already complying where necessary and the death rates, hospitalisation rates and positivity test rates all hovering just below 1% in our state — I believe this mandate was ill timed and not necessary.”

Speaking about the mandate, Mr Hutchinson said: “We believe this is important from a public health standpoint,” and added: “It is something that is necessary in Arkansas with the cases we’ve had.”

Following his hospitalisation, Mr Rapert released a statement, where he wrote that “this is a difficult time for my family, but we know that God is with us always. We’re sincerely grateful for the many prayers of love and support that have been expressed on our behalf.

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“We have all been doing our best to wear a mask, social distance and be careful like everyone else. This virus is serious and can attack anyone regardless of age or general health.”

Arkansas recently saw a rise in coronavirus cases and last week recorded its second and third highest daily totals since the pandemic began, with 10,013 on Wednesday and 990 on Thursday, according to AlterNet.

On Sunday, the state recorded another 642 new positive test results, which took its overall total to 38,623 cases and 401 deaths.

According to a tracking project hosted by Johns Hopkins University, in the US as a whole, some 4.2 million people have tested positive for coronavirus. The death toll has reached at least 146,935.

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