One Florida man is tragically mourning the loss of his wife, who died after contracting COVID-19. Brian Lee Hitchens and his spouse, Erin, decided not to take the pandemic seriously after subscribing to online claims that the virus was a hoax.
According to the BBC, the couple didn’t seek help when they became sick in early May. In a Facebook post, Brian describes how he recovered, but 46-year-old Erin eventually went into critical condition. She died this month from heart problems caused by COVID-19. Erin’s preexisting health conditions, asthma and a sleeping disorder, put her at higher risk.
Hitchens, who works as a taxi driver, told the BBC that they didn’t follow official health guidance because of the COVID-19 conspiracy theories they read on Facebook. The couple’s beliefs swapped between thinking the virus was a hoax, connected to 5G technology, or just a mild ailment.
"We thought the government was using it to distract us," Brian told BBC, "or it was to do with 5G."
Hitchens continued to drive his taxi, and the two did not practice social distancing or mask wearing. "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 on Facebook after they both fell ill in May.
COVID-19 conspiracy theories on social media present an extreme danger to the public, as the pandemic continues to claim thousands of lives. Unfortunately the Hitchens are just a few of many who have gotten sick or lost a loved one after believing conspiracy theories.
"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 said. "She's no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she's in a better place."