Cautionary COVID tales: Pals and households share lethal penalties of hoaxes and misinformation

“I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not,” a 30-year-old patient who died this week in a Texas hospital told his nurse, ABC News reported. While the hospital could not disclose the individual’s name due to HIPAA laws, Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer for Methodist Hospital and Methodist Children’s Hospital, confirmed the unidentified patient’s death and told ABC News that the man told nurses he had previously attended a “COVID party.”  

Earlier this month, Daily Kos reported on students allegedly hosting parties in which one individual was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. While many states have been unable to confirm the reality of these parties, warnings have been issued on the deadly consequences of hosting such affairs. Appleby said that in this case the people allegedly got together to see if the virus was real. She added that she shared the story not to induce fear among individuals, but to emphasize that the virus can affect anyone. According to Appleby, her hospital has been seeing an increase in cases for those in their 20s and 30s.

In Ohio, a 37-year-old veteran died from COVID-19 complications on Independence Day weekend. According to his family members, the man tested positive for COVID-19 on July 1 and died three days later despite having no known preexisting health conditions. The man, identified as Richard Rose, served in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was described by those who knew him to local news as caring and active in helping the homeless.

“We were blown away, you know? You hear about this virus and you don’t expect it to affect people, younger people like ourselves,” Nick Conley, Rose’s friend, told Cleveland 19 News. Conley added that he was not only hurt to have lost his friend to the virus but by something Rose had shared on social media in April. In a post that has now been shared more than 10,000 times, Rose said that he would not be buying a mask adding that: “I’ve made it this far by not buying into that damn hype,” Cleveland 19 News reported. “It’s horrible that we lost Rick but the even more tragic part of that is who else became infected because of the actions that he chose,” Conley said.

While Conley believes that people should not be attacking Rose due to his beliefs he said he hopes Rose’s death serves as a warning of the reality of the virus. “I know a lot of people that haven’t met someone that they know of that has been diagnosed with the virus and I wanted people to see it was real and my hope is that people will see that this does happen and people will be more cautious,” he said.

Rose isn’t the only one to have posted on social media dismissing the severity of the virus prior to being infected. A 60-year-old Ohio man identified as John W. McDaniel died in April after doing the same.

“Does anybody have the guts to say this COVID-19 is a political ploy? Asking for a friend. Prove me wrong,” he wrote on Facebook on March 13. McDaniel was the first to die as a result of the novel coronavirus in his county, according to his obit. He had previously called stay-at-home orders “bullshit” adding that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had no “authority” to close the state and limit business operations, The New York Post reported. “He doesn’t have that authority. If you are paranoid about getting sick just don’t go out. It shouldn’t keep those of us from living our lives,” McDaniel wrote. “The madness has to stop.”

According to The New York Post, while McDaniel’s Facebook comments have since been deleted, screenshots are still circulating online. NPR noted that public backlash on both Facebook and Twitter caused the family to cancel plans to share his funeral service online. Family members told NPR that in addition to mourning his loss, they are mourning the fact that he was unable to change his stance against the pandemic.”We know if John was still here with us he would acknowledge the national crisis we are in, abide by the stay-at-home order, and encourage family and friends to do the same,” Lisa McDaniel wrote in a Facebook post. “But sadly he is not with us and we will forever have to live and cope with how his life ended far too soon.” In another post, Lisa McDaniel shared the importance of stay-at-home orders to stop the spread referring to McDaniel’s death.

In states like Arizona, where there is no statewide mandate to wear a mask, individuals grieving the loss of family members are calling out officials on “terrible leadership.” In an obituary that has gone viral on social media, Kristin Urquiza, who is grieving her late father, Mark Urquiza, slammed politicians for her father’s death as a result of COVID-19. As my colleague, Marissa Higgins said: “Though the obituary includes heartwarming memories of her dad, perhaps the most breathtaking sentence is as follows: ‘His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continued to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis and the inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk.’”

As the Trump administration continues to dismiss the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials nationwide are urging individuals to social distance and abide by safety measures in place. For states in which strict safety measures and stay-at-home orders are not in place, health officials still continue to warn residents to minimize gathering and to make use of face coverings. State officials and leaders need to step up and enforce safety measures to both to stop further spread of the virus and ensure the safety of their residents.

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