February 26, 2024

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during an interview with Reuters on Capitol Hill in Washington, the United States, July 27, 2021.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

WASHINGTON – Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell will use his campaign funds to pay for radio advertising in his home state of Kentucky urging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19, McConnell sources close to NBC News on Wednesday.

It is highly unusual for members of Congress to use campaign funds for anything outside of their re-election efforts. McConnell’s decision, however, reflects the looming crisis caused by Delta variant Covid infections in states with low vaccination rates.

In Kentucky, only eight of the state’s 120+ counties report vaccination rates above 50%, according to the latest CDC data.

“Everyone needs to be vaccinated,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday night after the Centers for Disease Control issued new mask guidelines recommending that they be worn indoors in areas with poor immunization protection.

More than 100 radio spots will be broadcast across Kentucky in the coming days, the source told NBC.

McConnell, who survived polio as a child, has been a staunch advocate of Covid safety measures since the pandemic began. He wore a mask, adopted science-based approaches to the virus, and encouraged vaccination as soon as doses were available.

McConnell’s pandemic response has often brought him into conflict with other top Republicans, including California House of Representatives minority leader Kevin McCarthy and former President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, McCarthy criticized the Capitol Physician’s office for recommending that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors. He called it “a decision conjured up by liberal government officials”.

Trump railed against the new CDC guidelines in a statement Tuesday, claiming Americans had learned to “live and fight back” against the deadly virus and should refuse to wear masks. “Don’t throw up COVID,” he said.