People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

A man who once believed the coronavirus was a hoax has lost his wife to COVID-19.

BBC News previously wrote about Brian Lee Hitchens, a man in Florida who told the outlet he fell ill along with his wife, Erin, in May after ignoring social-distancing guidelines. He said they believed conspiracy theories and rumors on social media downplaying the coronavirus.

While Brian Lee Hitchens was able to recover, his wife died this month, BBC News reported Tuesday.

“She’s no longer suffering, but in peace,” Hitchens said. “I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”

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A Florida man who once said the coronavirus pandemic was “blown out of proportion” has lost his wife to COVID-19.

Brian Lee Hitchens, a ride-sharing driver, told BBC News that he and his wife, Erin, had believed false claims circulating on social media in the early months of the pandemic downplaying the disease or linking it to conspiracy theories around 5G. Some of the misinformation the two saw online also likened the disease to the flu, making the coronavirus seem far more treatable than it is.

Believing those debunked or false claims, neither of them adhered to recommended precautions from health officials, 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,” Hitchens told BBC News. “She’s no longer suffering, but in peace. I go through times missing her, but I know she’s in a better place.”

Lawmakers and officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for months urged Americans to wear personal protective equipment like masks and maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus.

But Hitchens continued his job as a driver without wearing a mask or enforcing social distancing.

“We thought the government was using it to distract us,” he told BBC News, “or it was to do with 5G.”

Story continues

Both contracted the virus in May, when BBC News first wrote about their story. Hitchens recovered, but his wife, a pastor who had been on a ventilator, died this month, the outlet reported Tuesday.

Hitchens’ wife had existing health issues that complicated her recovery. Hitchens expressed regret at not heeding warnings from health officials, telling the BBC that he wished he’d “listened from the beginning.”

A warning

In a turnaround, Hitchens after his hospitalization began warning people that the coronavirus was not a hoax.

He wrote a lengthy Facebook post in May urging people to take the virus seriously.

“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.

In that same Facebook post, Hitchens said that after watching his wife struggle with the coronavirus for weeks on end, he realized she might die.

“My wife has been sick before in the past quite a few times and she always fought through to get better but now after 3 weeks I have come to accept that my wife may pass away and the peace I have about it is that I know without a shadow of a doubt that she will be going home to be with the Lord,” Hitchens wrote.

Florida is one of the states that saw their numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths spike during the summer. More than 10,000 people in the state have died after being infected with the coronavirus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

More than 177,000 people with the virus have died in the US, which has recorded more than 5.7 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins data.

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