A gathering in Texas hosted by a self-described COVID-19 denier resulted in 14 family members testing positive for the virus. Since the gathering, one family member has died and another is currently on life support. 

As NBC reports, this story comes directly from Tony Green, who shared his family’s tragedy in a column published by Dallas Voice titled “A harsh lesson in the reality of COVID-19.” 

"I admit I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I admit traveling deep into the conspiracy trap over COVID-19," Green wrote in the column. " I believed the virus to be a hoax. I believed the mainstream media and the Democrats were using it to create panic, crash the economy and destroy Trump’s chances at re-election."

He goes on to lament how these beliefs put his family at risk. Green and his partner decided to ignore social distancing guidelines and host a party for their parents on June 13. No one wore masks during the gathering, and by June 15, his parents and his in-laws all felt sick. Green’s family members later travelled from Dallas to Austin, meeting more family members and further spreading the virus. 

On June 24, Green and his father-in-law Rafael Ceja were admitted to the hospital. Shortly after, his father-in-law's mother was admitted to the same hospital. Green spent several days in the hospital as the virus attacked his nervous system.

Ceja’s mother died on July 2 of COVID-19 and pneumonia, spending her final moments alone in the room next to her son. "Not only would Rafael miss her funeral, he didn't even get to say goodbye or see her one last time," Green wrote on a GoFundMe page he launched to help cover Ceja’s medical expenses. 

On July 12, Ceja was placed on life support. Only 10 people were able to attend his mother’s funeral two days later, after several more family members tested positive for the virus. In total, 14 family members tested positive according to Green. 

“You cannot imagine the guilt I feel, knowing that I hosted the gathering that led to so much suffering,” he wrote. “You cannot imagine my guilt at having been a denier, carelessly shuffling through this pandemic, making fun of those wearing masks and social distancing. You cannot imagine my guilt at knowing that my actions convinced both our families it was safe when it wasn’t.”

In Texas, the number of COVID-19 related deaths jumped 12 percent on Monday, due to changes in reporting measures. Green’s column warns against the risk of ignoring CDC guidelines and social distancing measures during this pandemic.  

“The next time you’re put out because your favorite spots are closed or because they won’t let you enter without wearing a mask, and you decide to defy them rather than comply because you’re defending your rights and freedoms from being trampled, just remember: Your family and friends may be next,” he wrote.

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