A taxi driver in the US state of Florida, who believed false claims that coronavirus was a hoax, has lost his wife to COVID-19.
Brian Lee Hitchens and his wife, Erin, had read claims online that the virus was fabricated, linked to 5G or similar to the flu.
The couple did not follow health guidance or seek help when they fell ill in early May. Brian recovered but his 46-year-old wife became critically ill and died this month from heart problems linked to the virus.
Erin, a pastor in Florida, had existing health problems – she suffered from asthma and a sleeping disorder.
Her husband explained that the couple did not follow health guidance at the start of the pandemic because of the false claims they had seen online.
Brian continued to work as a taxi driver and to collect his wife’s medicine without observing social distancing rules or wearing a mask.
Brian said he and his wife did not have one firm belief about COVID-19. Instead, they switched between thinking the virus was a hoax, linked to 5G technology, or a real, but mild ailment. They came across these theories on Facebook.
“We thought the government was using it to distract us, or it was to do with 5G,” Brian told the BBC
But after the couple fell ill with the virus in May, Brian took to Facebook in a viral post to explain that he had been misled by what he had seen online about the virus.
“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.
They had also failed to seek help as soon as possible when they fell ill in May and were both subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19.
Brian told the BBC he “wished [he’d] listened from the beginning” and hoped his wife would forgive him.
He said: “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.
“She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”