WASHINGTON — Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell will use his campaign funds to pay for radio ads in his home state of Kentucky encouraging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, sources close to McConnell told NBC News on Wednesday.
It is highly unusual for members of Congress to use campaign funds for anything outside of their re-election efforts. But McConnell’s decision reflects the looming crisis posed by delta variant Covid infections in states with low vaccination levels.
In Kentucky, only eight of the state’s more than 120 counties report vaccination rates above 50%, according to the latest CDC data.
“Everybody needs to get vaccinated,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday evening, after the Centers for Disease control issued new mask guidance advising they be worn indoors in low-vaccination areas.
More than 100 radio ads will air across Kentucky in the coming days, the source told NBC.
McConnell, who survived polio as a child, has been a consistent advocate of Covid safety measures since the start of the pandemic. He has worn a mask, embraced science-based approaches to the virus and encouraged vaccination as soon as doses became available.
McConnell’s pandemic response has frequently put him at odds with other top Republicans, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California and former President Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, McCarthy criticized the Capitol Physician’s Office for recommending masks be worn indoors by both unvaccinated and vaccinated people. He called it “a decision conjured up by liberal government officials.”
Trump railed against the new CDC guidance in a statement Tuesday, claiming that Americans have learned to “live and fight back” against the deadly virus, and should refuse to wear masks. “Don’t surrender to COVID,” he said.