Republican who went maskless now says coronavirus 'wants to kill us'

Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd (R) on Friday released a lengthy statement urging the public to get vaccinated following his months-long battle with COVID-19, concluding that the coronavirus “is a disease that wants to kill us.”

“I have never been against taking the COVID-19 vaccine, but I understand the concerns of those who are hesitant. To them, I would say COVID is real and it is very dangerous. It is a disease that wants to kill us. Please take it seriously. Please consider getting vaccinated. This is an issue that should not divide us,” Byrd said in a statement posted by News Channel 5 Nashville.

Byrd, 63, in the statement said he was first diagnosed with COVID-19 the day before Thanksgiving and days later ended up in the hospital.

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He said he “foolishly” believed that the virus “only seriously affected people who were at high risk” until it infiltrated his lungs “with lightning speed.”

“COVID took over my lungs with lightning speed. I developed pneumonia. I got sicker and sicker, and more and more anxious. Every breath was pure agony,” the lawmaker wrote.

He was put on a ventilator when his condition worsened, which he stayed connected to for 55 days in an intensive care unit.

“Although I was reassured I would be taken care of, the moment just before I was put under by the anesthesiologist and realized this might be the last I see of this world was beyond terrifying,” Boyd wrote.

Byrd, however, did not always strike such a serious tone when discussing COVID-19. The Tennessean reported that the state lawmaker was spotted on the House floor in November during a caucus meeting not wearing a mask, and he attended a dinner at a local restaurant with dozens of his colleagues days before.

The dinner was on the first night of an overnight retreat for his caucus held in his district.

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Byrd also approved a resolution last June that said the news media “sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas,” according to News Channel 5 Nashville.

He said the recovery process after he was taken off a ventilator was “brutal,” recounting that he could not walk or use his arms. He also said he lost “an alarming amount of weight.”

Eventually, the lawmaker said his liver began to fail and he developed jaundice. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 cholangiopathy and was told he needed a liver transplant to live.

He said he “miraculously” received a new liver on June 12.

Throughout his bout with the virus, Byrd said his family “prayed for a miracle while facing the very real prospect of planning my funeral.”

“They were traumatized daily by the distressing updates on my status. Everything that can go wrong with COVID, did. Despite the excellent care I received, I got sicker. The virus invaded my lungs and organs and it wasn’t looking good for me,” he wrote. 

He wrapped up his statement by saying he hopes that detailing his experience with COVID-19 “helps others to act against an enemy that knows no skin color, economic status or political affiliation.”

A number of Republican lawmakers have changed their tone on COVID-19 in recent weeks, particularly amid the increased spread of the highly infectious delta variant.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisWhere election review efforts stand across the US Schools without mask mandate 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks: CDC study Texas limits business with Ben & Jerry's over Israel move MORE (R) urged his state to get vaccinated last month, concluding that the shots are "saving lives."

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic leaders racing toward Monday infrastructure vote House GOP to whip against bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-La.) last month revealed that he recently received his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine because the delta variant was "becoming a lot more aggressive" and due to the possibility of another spike in infectious.