State Rep. Michael Lemelin, R-Chelsea, right, wears a protective hood, face covering and gloves prior to the start off a legislative session, Wednesday, March 10, 2021, at the Augusta Civic Center in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A Maine lawmaker is facing criticism after calling the coronavirus the “China virus” in an email to an Asian American woman.

Krista Gerrity, of Windham, wrote to multiple lawmakers expressing her concerns about efforts from Republican lawmakers to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and open schools, Newscenter Maine reported.

Rep. Michael Lemelin — who represents Chelsea, Jefferson, Nobleboro and Whitefield — replied to Gerrity, downplaying the effects of the virus while calling it the “China virus,” a racist trope frequently used to place blame on China for the spread of COVID-19.

He also wrote in the email that kids should go back to school “without masks,” Newscenter reported.

His comments come after Asian Americans nationwide experienced increasing antagonism and racially motivated violence in recent months.

Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau, a Democrat, told Newscenter that Lemelin’s comments were “racist” and that his use of racist expressions are “totally beneath the office which he holds.”

Gerrity told Newscenter that she and her children have seen the increase in racism and that using such language propagates “more hatred, more fear, more xenophobia.”

When asked to comment, Lemelin replied “Please read John 18:23.” The passage, from the Gospel of John in the New Testament reads, “‘If I said something wrong,’ Jesus replied, ‘testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’”

“It is a wise man who rules Covid, and a fool who is ruled by Covid,” Lemelin added. “We are being ruled by Covid.”