Calif. Man, 34, Dies After Chronicling COVID Battle and Vaccine Hesitancy, Hillsong Pastor Confirms

Young Man Dies After Chronicling His Battle with COVID and His Vaccination Hesitancy
Young Man Dies After Chronicling His Battle with COVID and His Vaccination Hesitancy

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A California man who publicly opposed COVID-19 vaccines has died from the Coronavirus.

Stephen Harmon died on Wednesday at the Corona Regional Medical Center, according to a tweet posted Thursday by Brian Houston, a pastor at the Hillsong Church in Los Angeles. He was 34.

In his last tweet from his now-protected Twitter account, Harmon asked his followers to "please pray" for him shortly before he was intubated.

"I'm choosing to go under intubation, I've fought this thing as hard as I can but unfortunately it's reached a point of critical choice & as much as I hate having to do this I'd rather it be willingness than forced emergency procedure. Don't know when I'll wake up, please pray," he wrote, KCBS-TV reported.

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Six weeks ago, Harmon was at the forefront of vaccine hesitancy on social media. In one Twitter post, he wrote, "I got 99 problems, but a vax ain't one."

In another, Harmon mocked President Joe Biden's efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable communities: "Biden's door to door vaccine 'surveyors' really should be called JaCovid Witnesses. #keepmovingdork."

Dr. Oren Friedman, who treats COVID patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A., told KCBS-TV that Harmon's death is "unbelievably demoralizing."

With numbers at his hospital increasing tenfold, Friedman said "virtually every single person" sick enough to be admitted is unvaccinated.

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"I can tell you that for the respiratory therapists and nurses and doctors that are having to go into rooms and take care of patients who are this sick at this stage — and to know that it's preventable if people simply had taken the vaccine — it is an awful feeling of [post-traumatic stress disorder] and frustration," he told the station.

Harmon also shared photos of himself from his hospital bed on his now-private Instagram account, claiming that he had pneumonia and was at risk of brain damage from low oxygen levels.

Houston called Harmon "one of the most generous people I know," but added that the man's views of coronavirus vaccines "were his own" and "do not represent the views and thoughts of Hillsong Church," which Harmon was a member of.

"Many of our pastors, staff, and congregation are fully vaccinated and more will be when vaccines become available to them in their countries," Houston wrote on Instagram.

RELATED: Delta Variant Is Now the Most Common COVID Strain in the U.S., CDC Says

COVID-19 numbers are increasing in California and across the United States due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is now the most common strain in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unvaccinated individuals make up the large majority of new cases and hospitalizations.

On Friday, the California Department of Public Health reported nearly 8,000 new cases from the day prior. The state's seven-day testing positivity rate jumped to more than 5%, up from less than 1% a few weeks ago.

More than 608,000 people nationwide have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the CDC. 48.9% of the country is fully vaccinated.