Anotha one (cue the DJ Khaled clip). Yet another COVID-19 denier has been hospitalized with the novel coronavirus. According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, a Florida council member who promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and mocked disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is hospitalized after contracting the virus.
The last Volusia County meeting attended by Fred Lowry, the COVID-infected council member in question, was August 17. He has allegedly been battling infection since then. “He is in the hospital wrestling with COVID-19. It’s been about three weeks now,” Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower said on Tuesday.
Another chairman, Billie Wheeler, shared that Lowry texted her an update and is “pretty darned sick," The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. According to Wheeler, Lowry was hospitalized Monday night after being treated with monoclonal antibodies last week.
Lowry was infamous for his consistent spread of COVID-19 misinformation and conspiracy theories, including one incident in which he refused to accept the pandemic was anything but a hoax. “We did not have a pandemic, folks. We were lied to,” Lowry said during a May 30 sermon at Deltona Lakes Baptist Church.
He also criticized and nicknamed Fauci “Dr. Falsey,” insisting that the top health official was a liar and sexual predator. "I did not mispronounce that. That's the way I wanted to say it," he said in various incidents according to the News-Journal.
Other conspiracy theories he promoted included misinformation about climate change, media coverage of hydroxychloroquine, and the absurd QAnon theory that liberals drink the blood of babies. To top it off, he also believed that the 2020 election was rigged.
After his comments at the sermon and conspiracy theory promotions went viral, he made headlines with various calls for his resignation. But despite the controversy, Lowry refused to resign. In a short statement in June, he said: "I will not be resigning. That is all."
County health officials told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that, while coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have mostly declined in the county, the “transmission rate is still pretty high.”
"In our community, the virus is everywhere. We're all exposed to it when we go to the grocery store, when we go anywhere. And many of us will be perfectly fine when we're exposed to it. […] But some of us will not be,” said Ethan Johnson, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County.
Concerns of COVID-19 spread were discussed at the last Volusia County meeting, which Lowry could not attend. During it, Councilwoman Barb Girtman noted the importance of taking the virus more seriously.
"The last thing we want to do is expose each other to a deadly illness," Girtman said. "I don't believe that that's been taken seriously, is why I'm saying it and why I'm repeating it.”
Girtman made a formal motion to affirm council members due so. The motion passed unanimously.
"There's a deadly illness in our community that we have not taken seriously on this dais, where people have come in feeling ill, knowing they're ill and not masking and exposing staff, potentially," she said.
With Lowry now in the hospital recovering, one can only hope he realizes the damage he has done and stops spreading misinformation. Multiple COVID-19 deniers and conservatives seem to only acknowledge the reality of the virus after contracting it.
As of Tuesday, Florida has recorded at least 3,364,998 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 46,973 deaths, according to Miami Herald. On average, within the last seven days, the state has added 345 deaths and more than 16,000 cases to its total daily. A little more than 50% of the state is currently vaccinated, with more than 90% of all COVID-19 related hospitalizations being made up of unvaccinated individuals.