Updated July 10 at 7:45 a.m. ET
Ohio state Rep. Nino Vitale is urging his constituents not to get tested for the coronavirus, flouting advice from health officials — and from another Republican lawmaker, Gov. Mike DeWine.
"This is what happens when people go crazy and get tested," Vitale wrote on Facebook this week. "STOP GETTING TESTED!"
Vitale was evidently incensed by an order from DeWine and state health officials that people in seven Ohio counties with severe outbreaks must wear face coverings when out in public. That order took effect Wednesday.
Vitale shared an altered graphic about the order — in that version, there is an extra message at the bottom:
"!! NEVER GET TESTED !!"
Vitale's statement follows comments from President Trump, who has repeatedly suggested he would like to see less coronavirus testing in the U.S. "If we did very little testing, [America] wouldn't have the most cases," the president said in early May. "So, in a way, by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad." And at a rally last month in Oklahoma, Trump declared that he told his administration to "slow the testing down."
Vitale is a Republican in a Republican-controlled state government. But he has been a vocal opponent of DeWine's move to impose an economic shutdown and other restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In his note on Facebook, Vitale asked, "Are you tired of living in a dictatorship yet?"
The state lawmaker accused "the government" of using the pandemic "to claim something is happening that is not happening at the magnitude they say it is happening" — and apparently, to infringe on people's rights.
"Stop listening to these frauds," he wrote.
Ohio has reported around 60,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases, and nearly 3,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to the state health department.
Compared with the rest of the state, the pandemic has barely affected the three counties Vitale represents: Champaign, Logan and Shelby. Those counties have reported a combined total of six deaths, and their case counts are measured in tens, not in hundreds of thousands.
Vitale followed up his comments against testing by taking another controversial stance, insisting that face masks do not prevent viruses from spreading.
Predictive models recently found that if more Americans covered their faces to prevent spreading the coronavirus, tens of thousands of COVID-19 deaths could be prevented in the coming months.
One of the most popular replies to Vitale's post about testing came from across the northern U.S. border.
"Thankfully, I live in Canada," a woman wrote. "Have a good time dying, it appears you all are determined that it is your freedom to do so. Glad our border is closed."
DeWine's face mask requirement for seven counties took effect Wednesday evening. As Karen Kasler of Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau reports, it's uncertain how — or whether — the order will be enforced, if people choose to disobey it.
Face mask mandates have become increasingly common as the coronavirus takes its horrible toll and continues to spread rapidly in the U.S. On Wednesday, the U.S. tally of confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the 3 million mark.