Rep. David Byrd has adapted a new stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, after he was hospitalized with the coronavirus for eight months.
The Tennessee Republican, 63, said in a statement on Friday that he was diagnosed with COVID the day before Thanksgiving and admitted to a hospital on December 5, according to Nashville's News Channel 5. He subsequently spent 55 days on a ventilator.
"Like most who contract the disease, I had no major underlying health conditions," Byrd said. "Up until this point in my life, I've been pretty healthy and active. Foolishly, I believed this virus only seriously affected people who are at high risk."
He was transported via helicopter to a hospital in Nashville back in December, where he was treated for COVID pneumonia, according to The Tennessean. Byrd previously attended a House Republican Caucus retreat days before he was diagnosed, and he was later seen without a face mask on the House floor.
"Covid took over my lungs with lightning speed. I developed pneumonia, I got sicker and sicker, and more and more anxious," he added in his statement. "Every breath was pure agony."
Byrd went on to detail his harrowing ordeal, as well as the impact it had on his family. As his condition progressed, he developed jaundice and was diagnosed with COVID Cholangiopathy. "I was told I would need a liver transplant or else I would die," Byrd wrote, noting he received a transplant on June 12. "Again, my family prepared for the worst."
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The lawmaker added that the experience "brought much clarity" after he was one of the Tennessee Republicans who voted for House Resolution 340 last June, which congratulated the state's citizens "for clearly seeing that the mainstream media has sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas."
"I hope that by sharing my experience it helps others to act against an enemy that knows no skin color, economic status or political affiliation," Byrd said Friday.
"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."
Multiple large-scale studies have found that vaccines are safe. There is no scientific link between vaccines and autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.