US pastor who criticised coronavirus ‘hysteria’ and went to Mardi Gras dies of virus

Virginia pastor Landon Spradlin had said on social media that the coronavirus was overhyped before falling ill

Gino Spocchia
Monday 06 April 2020 17:25
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US pastor who criticised coronavirus ‘hysteria' dies

A 66-year-old pastor and street musician who said media coverage of the coronavirus was overhyped died of the virus after travelling from Virginia to preach at Mardi Gras.

Pastor Landon Spradlin died at a hospital in North Carolina on Tuesday, after eight days in intensive care. He was hospitalised having collapsed with pneumonia as he made the 900 miles (1500 km) return trip from Louisiana to Virginia.

“We just never thought our father would pass away because of this. But he wasn’t the type of person to just live in fear and let it rob him of the joy of the life that he had,” said Mr Spradlin’s daughter, Jesse Spradlin, to the BBC.

The pastor had performed with his family band in New Orleans‘ Jackson Square during the carnival before falling ill.

According to his daughter, Jesse, Mr Spradlin’s “mission was to go into pubs, clubs and bars, play the blues and connect with musicians and just tell them that Jesus loved them,”

The pastor believed that Mardi Gras was an opportunity to spread his religious message through the medium of street music. ​

Instead, as cases of the coronavirus surge around New Orleans and across the US, experts point to the month-long Mardi Gras festivities as one cause of the coronavirus’s spread.

New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell admitted at the end of March that she would have cancelled Mardi Gras given prior warning from Donald Trump.

“I don’t even remember us talking about the virus,” said Naomi Spradlin, another daughter of Mr Spradlin. “With what’s happened we keep looking back, and we didn’t talk about it once.”

In a Facebook post on March 13, the pastor had shared a meme comparing swine flu deaths with coronavirus deaths. It also suggested that criticism of president Trump’s coronavirus management was politically motivated “mass hysteria”.

Landon Isaac, Mr Spradlin’s son, said “he did put up that post because he was frustrated that the media was propagating fear as the main mode of communication,”

He added: “I want to say outright though, dad didn’t think it was a hoax, he knew it was a real virus,”

Mr Spradlin’s funeral took place without immediate family members.

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