An unvaccinated Alabama councilmember who opposed mask mandates and called vaccines a personal choice is battling COVID-19-related pneumonia.
Decatur Councilman Hunter Pepper, 19, was hospitalized September 16 after suffering complications from the virus.
The politician, who vowed to ‘fight to the end’ against mandatory face coverings, said yesterday that ‘it feels terrible not to be able to breath.’
Pepper shared his diagnosis on Facebook, where he said he was being treated at Decatur Morgan Hospital for difficulty breathing.
‘Well, it has finally happened to me,’ he said. ‘…Everything in me wants to tell myself it is something different but every way I look it’s “Covid this, Covid that” and it has terrified me and my family.
‘The media continues to report on Covid-19 and explains “Death” each time they do. That is honestly terrifying to me but I have faith in the lord. Maybe this will clear up soon and the symptoms of this sickness shall not progress as I can tell you, it feels terrible not to be able to breathe.’
Councilman Hunter Pepper, who has COVID-19, says ‘it feels terrible not to be able to breath’
Pepper was elected to city council last year and made quick business of condemning mask mandates.
‘I believe the seatbelt thing should be your choice,’ Pepper said during an April 9 council vote to repeal the region’s face covering requirement.
‘It comes back to masks, I believe wearing a mask should be my choice.’
The 19-year-old who opposed mandatory mask mandates says he now has COVID pneumonia
Pepper, the youngest person elected to the local city council, also opposes mandatory vaccines.
He said in an earlier Facebook post that inoculations should be optional.
‘I will say if you choose to get vaccinated, that is your choice,’ he said in a July 24 post. ‘I will NEVER blame an individual for something that we can’t stop.
‘….I will NEVER push something on you or tell you your (sic) not a great member of society (sort of live Governor Ivey did yesterday) because I do not agree with it.’
Pepper likened mandatory masks to seatbelt laws, saying he thinks both should be optional
In Alabama, where 41 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, 72 people have died from the virus in the past day.
John Hopkins University data indicates 12,856 Alabamians succumbed to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
A recent surge in cases has strained hospitals and left a shortage of available intensive care unit (ICU) beds.
Ray DeMonia, 73, of Cullman, Alabama
Alabama’s ICU beds were at 101 percent capacity last week, according to Johns Hopkins’ most recent data, with COVID-19 patients accounting for half of the available beds.
Earlier this month, an Alabama man died of heart failure after being turned away from 43 hospitals across three southern states that were overrun with COVID patients.
Ray DeMonia, 73, was eventually admitted to a hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, 200 miles away from his home in Cullman, Alabama, but was too sick to save, and died September 1.
Councilmember Pepper said he was optimistic he’d be back to work by Monday.
‘If I am well enough, I will be attending the meeting via the phone as in I will call in to the meeting and vote over the phone, again, if I’m well enough,’ he said, thanking followers for their ‘thoughts and prayers.’
Data shows COVID-19 patients are taking half of Alabama’s available intensive care unit beds
Some fellow councilmembers called upon Pepper to resign earlier this year after learning of a 2018 social media post where he joked about running over Black Lives Matter protesters.
Pepper, who was 16 at the time, posted an article about people protesting the police shooting of an armed Black man in Birmingham, who was mistaken for a gunman at an earlier mall shooting.
Pepper commented: ‘See I have to go shopping there next week and we gone play a game called red rover red rover you fools gone get ran over!’
He later apologized for the post, calling it ‘very ignorant.’