A conservative US talk radio host and vaccine skeptic has died in hospital from complications related to a Covid-19 infection that he contracted last month.
Radio personality Phil Valentine’s death was announced in a tweet on Saturday by Nashville radio station SuperTalk 99.7 WTN.
“We are saddened to report that our host and friend Phil Valentine has passed away. Please keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and Prayers,” the station said.
Mr Valentine, who had been skeptical of coronavirus vaccines and mask wearing, was 61 when he died.
Last December, Mr Valentine wrote in his blog: “I’m not an anti-vaxxer. I’m just using common sense. What are my odds of getting Covid? They’re pretty low. What are my odds of dying from Covid if I do get it? Probably way less than one percent”.
But on 11 July, Mr Valentine reported that he had tested positive for the virus. Shortly afterwards, he told his listeners: “If I get this Covid thing, do I have a chance of dying from it?”.
Now urging people to get vaccinated, he added that he had chosen not to get the vaccine because he thought that he probably wouldn’t die.
Later in July, Mr Valentine was hospitalised for Covid-related pneumonia, and near the end of the month he was moved into a critical care unit where he was placed on a ventilator.
Mark Valentine, Phil’s brother, said that his brother regretted not being a “more vocal advocate of the vaccination”.
He told the Tennessean: “I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, ‘Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories”.
“He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine. Look at the dadgum data.”
Mr Valentine’s family also issued a statement after the radio host was hospitalised.
The statement said: “Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘pro-vaccine’ and looks forward to being able to more vigourously advocate for that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon.”
“PLEASE GO GET VACCINATED,” it added.
Following Mr Valentine’s death, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted: “Phil Valentine was a visionary for the conservative movement, and he made an enormous impact on the lives of many Tennesseans.
“My deepest condolences and prayers are with Phil’s wife, Susan, and his family. May they be comforted and surrounded by love during this difficult time.”
Tennessee’s governor Bill Lee also took to Twitter to share his condolences with the family of the radio host. He said: “Maria and I are deeply saddened by the loss of Phil Valentine and pray for his family as they navigate the difficult days ahead.”
While both Ms Blackburn and Mr Lee support Covid vaccination, they are both dubious on mask mandates. Ms Blackburn has said that there is “no evidence” that masks worn by vaccinated people can stop the spread of Covid.
Ms Blackburn’s claim is not supported by the scientific community, however, as both the American CDC and the WHO recommend that fully vaccinated people continue to wear masks in indoor public settings. This is because no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, and in order to avoid spreading the virus, particularly the more infectious Delta strain, more layers of protection mean a person less likely to contract and spread the virus.
Mr Lee has challenged mask mandates for schools, issuing an executive order that requires Tennessee schools to allow parents to exempt their children from mask mandates.
The CDC currently recommends universal indoor masking for all students, staff and teachers in schools across the US to slow the spread of the virus, regardless of vaccination status.
As of Saturday 21 August, there have been 977,230 Covid infections and 12,142 related deaths reported in Tennessee, according to the state’s department of health. Only 41 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 48 per cent have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
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