A US pastor who was openly sceptical about the coronavirus pandemic has passed away from the deadly virus. Landon Spradlin, 66, died 25th March at a North Carolina hospital after developing a lethal combination of bronchitis and double pneumonia.
The pastor was returning from a ministry trip in New Orleans and headed back to his home state of Virginia when he collapsed at a gas station in NC, according to his family. Rushed to a local emergency room in Concord, the pastor later tested positive for the disease and was placed on a ventilator.
Just weeks ago, Pastor Spradlin had taken to social media, sharing a meme that criticised the "mass hysteria" surrounding the outbreak and warning that the real issue was the media "pumping out fear" -- something he deemed was "doing more harm than good."
"It will come and it will go," he said of the virus at the time.
Tragically, Spradlin's daughter Judah Strickland said she was prohibited from seeing her father in person before he died due to restrictions on hospital access.
"I said 'look, I haven't seen my dad in almost six weeks,'" she told WSLS. "Please let me go see him. And she [hospital worker] said 'look under any other circumstances we would, but this is uncharted territory for us.'"
An accomplished blues musician, Spradlin's death has sparked an outpouring of love and condolence from the local music and faith community.
In a Facebook post, friend and fellow singer Kerry Hurley said that Spradlin "spread the word of God every day he was alive and he praised and worshiped like no other … He will be in my heart until I see his sweet face again in heaven. I love you brother. That's the last thing he said to me."
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Spradlin's family with expenses at this difficult time. So far, just under $25,000 has been raised.
"Landon and Jean are the most genuine, most inspiring people I've met so far in my journey in ministry. Love and prayer," one comment read.
In a statement, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he extended his "deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones."
Cooper continued: "This is a stark warning that for some people COVID-19 is a serious illness. All of us must do our part to stop the spread by staying at home as much as possible and practicing social distancing."
The United States is quickly becoming the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with almost 150,000 confirmed cases and 2,500 deaths.