A Republican lawmaker in Tennessee who once backed a bill claiming the media sensationalized the coronavirus “in the service of political agendas” has a new message after nearly dying from the infection.
“It is a disease that wants to kill us,” State Representative David Byrd wrote over the weekend in a statement. quoted by NewsChannel 5 in Nashville. “Please take it seriously.”
The Tennessean reported that Byrd attended a Republican state House retreat in November, which included a dinner with dozens of people in attendance, and was seen on the House floor without a mask on November 24.
Byrd was diagnosed with coronavirus a day later.
“Foolishly, I believed that this virus only seriously affected people who are at high risk,” he said. “COVID took over my lungs with lightning speed. I developed pneumonia. I got sicker and sicker and got more and more anxious. Every breath was pure agony. ”
Byrd was hospitalized on December 1. 5, the beginning of an eight-month ordeal that included 55 days on a ventilator. After he appeared to be recovering, his liver failed and he needed a transplant.
Byrd said his family faced “the very real prospect of planning my funeral” as the infection took hold of their lungs “at lightning speed.” And while he was unconscious, his family was traumatized daily by his illness. Now he is urging people to get vaccinated.
“I understand the concerns of those who doubt,” Byrd said. “For them, I would say that COVID is real and very dangerous.”
As the nation battled coronavirus last year, Byrd was among the 55 members of the House of Tennessee which advanced a conspiracy-driven message that downplayed the infection and blamed the media.
“We congratulate the people of Tennessee for clearly seeing that the mainstream media has sensationalized reports on COVID-19 in service of political agendas,” said the resolution saying.
Now that Byrd has fought the infection himself, he said the problem shouldn’t divide people.
“I hope that by sharing my experience I will help others to act against an enemy who does not know skin color, economic status or political affiliation,” he said.
According to data cited by The New York Times, Tennessee has seen more than double hospitalizations in the past two weeks. Only 39% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, well below the national average of 49%.
The Washington Post reported that the rate was even lower in the Byrd district, in 31%.
In 2018, three women accused Byrd of sexually assaulting them as teenagers and he was their basketball coach in high school in the 1980s, leading to bipartisan formation. ask for his resignation.
Byrd issued a statement at that time refusing to resign and apologizing “if I hurt or emotionally upset any of my students.”
The Tennessean reported that has never publicly denied the accusations.
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