By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) – Former Rep. Harley Rouda Thursday criticized Rep. Michelle Steel, who unseated him in November, for a joke and other comments she made about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Zoom call with Orange County business leaders on Friday, Steel jokingly referred to the coronavirus, which she was infected with recently, as a “diet plan.”

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I went through this Covid for the last two weeks and, you know what, 99 percent of the people they survive,” said Steel, R-Surfside. “And you know what I went through? I lost a few weights. It’s a very good way to lose your weight.”

Steel said she lost her senses of smell and taste, common symptoms of COVID-19.

“Other than that, I went through very light [symptoms] and my husband same thing too. So, you know what? Just open up the businesses,” said Steel. “Let’s open up the schools. In Orange County, we opened up the schools last August, and, you know what? We didn’t have much problem except a few here and there.”

Rouda, who is planning to run to win back the congressional seat he held for one term, said coronavirus “isn’t something to joke about.”

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The Democrat said, “It’s not the time for flippant remarks, when 400,000 of our fellow Americans have died through the spread of this virus and the mismanagement and addressing it at the federal level, and, in her case, at the local level when she was (chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors).”

Rouda said the irony to him is that following the guidelines from federal, state, and county health professionals will help slow the spread of the virus, which will allow businesses to reopen sooner.

“Our elected officials need to model that behavior and when she fails to model that behavior she is actually hurting businesses,” Rouda said. “That’s the most frustrating thing for me.”

There was no immediate response to an email sent to Steel’s office seeking comment.

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