NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee lawmaker who battled COVID-19 for nearly eight months is encouraging the public to “consider getting vaccinated.”
Republican Rep. David Byrd detailed his struggle with the virus in a lengthy statement Friday, describing how the disease put him in an intensive care unit on a ventilator for 55 days. He says his family began planning his funeral.
“I have no memories of this time, but my family will certainly never forget it. They were traumatized daily by the distressing updates on my status,” Byrd wrote.
Byrd, 63, added that eventually his liver began to fail after he was taken off the ventilator, requiring him to need a transplant. He received a new liver on June 12.
The Republican lawmaker says he understands “the concerns of those who are hesitant” to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Last June, Byrd joined many of the House GOP caucus in approving a resolution that declared the news media “sensationalized the reporting on COVID-19 in the service of political agendas.”
In his Friday statement, Byrd did not acknowledge his previous actions to downplay the coronavirus outbreak or his fellow Republican legislative colleagues who worked this year to limit certain public health measures.
“I would say (COVID) is real and it is very dangerous,” he said. “It is a disease that wants to kill us. Please take it seriously. Please consider getting vaccinated.”
Tennessee continues to have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country even as cases are rising.
Byrd's statement comes nearly a week after conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine said he regretted his vaccine skepticism after being hospitalized from COVID-19 and encouraged his listeners to get the shot.
Meanwhile, Byrd has faced allegations by three women of sexual misconduct three decades ago when he was a high school teacher and their basketball coach. He was never charged. Two of the women accused Byrd of inappropriately touching them; the third said Byrd tried to.
Byrd apologized to one of the women in a phone call she recorded in early 2018, but he didn’t detail his action and denied anything happened with other students.