- A couple from Florida, both coronavirus deniers, were infected in May.
- The wife died a few months later of COVID-19 complications. The husband acknowledged that they were more likely to believe one of the latest COVID-19 conspiracy theories than the truth, including fake stories that said the virus was fabricated, a hoax, or related to 5G.
- The man, who continued working without observing social distancing rules and face mask-wearing advice, now tells people to take the virus seriously.
A garden variety of conspiracy theories have eroded the trust some people have in government officials who are managing the local coronavirus response. Add to that a resistance to stick to safety guidelines, like avoiding crowds and wearing face masks while in public, and you end up with two factors that have helped with the spread of the novel coronavirus. As if the highly infectious pathogen needed any help for jumping from human to human. And coronavirus deniers and anti-maskers usually learned on their own how dangerous the virus can be.
Such was the case of a man who needed a double lung transplant after 100 days on a machine. Or the woman who now has to relearn how to walk after 69 days on machines. The latest coronavirus tragedy involving coronavirus deniers comes from Florida, where a man who believed 5G conspiracy theories about COVID-19, and who did not wear face masks lost his wife to the illness. Both of them were infected and may have waited for too long before seeking help. Like others who came to discover that the virus is not a hoax, the man is now advising others to be prudent.
Brian Lee Hitchens is a taxi driver who was married to his 46-year-old wife Erin for eight years. The two read coronavirus conspiracy theories online that said the virus was a hoax, that it was fabricated, that it was linked to 5G, or that it is similar to the flu. We’ve been seeing such claims in the wild for months, but especially in the earlier days of the pandemic.
Brian told BBC News that the couple did not follow health guidance or seek help when they fell ill in early May. While he recovered, his wife died this month from heart problems that were linked to the virus.
Erin had existing health issues, including asthma and a sleeping disorder. Brian said the two believed the false claims they saw online and did not observe safety guidelines. Brian continued to work as a taxi driver and would collect his wife’s meds without practicing social distancing or wearing a mask.
“We thought the government was using it to distract us,” Brian explained, “or it was to do with 5G.”
Brian now said that he “wished [he’d] listened from the beginning,” hoping that his wife would forgive him.
“This is a real virus that affects people differently. I can’t change the past. I can only live in today and make better choices for the future,” Brian told BBC. “She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”
After the couple fell ill in May, Brian posted on Facebook a lengthy account of what had happened to them, and that post went viral. He explained he started feeling unwell and stopped working, and then his wife started showing symptoms. They started feeling worse and worse and ultimately decided to go to the hospital. Both of them were admitted to the ICU, and Brian began to feel better within a few days. His wife wasn’t so lucky, and she soon needed a ventilator to breathe. Three weeks later, they were still in the hospital, but doctors were not hopeful about Erin’s chances.
“This thing is nothing to be messed with please listen to the authorities and heed the advice of the experts,” Brian said of the virus. “If you have to go out, please use wisdom and don’t be foolish like I was, so the same thing won’t happen to you like it happened to me and my wife,” he wrote.