It’s obvious by now that the Trump administration and Republican governors (and to a lesser, but no less tragic, extent Democratic ones) have given up on providing any real guidance on the covid-19 pandemic, instead offering up a wildly confusing bag of mixed messages based on magical thinking rather than science. While it’s easy to blame individuals for the dumb decisions they make, people take their cues from elected leaders, particularly during moments of crisis—and the people we should largely reserve our ire for are those in power who have made the decision to give the death sentence to hundreds of thousands of people, all in the name of the mighty dollar.
Still, sometimes it’s hard to not wag the finger at the deliberate choices our fellow humans make, and the tragic—and preventable—death of Florida teen Carsyn Davis, who died on June 23 of pneumonia resulting from covid-19, two weeks after she attended a party at her church with more than one hundred other teens, makes me want to scream and dig myself even deeper into the pit of despair that I find myself in these days.
Davis had survived childhood cancer and had risk factors for covid-19, including an autoimmune disorder and obesity. But despite her heightened risk, her parents allowed her on June 10 to attend a party at their church, the First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Florida. Dubbed the “Release Party,” the event was pitched by the church as a night of “games, awesome giveaways, free food, a DJ and music, and the start of our new sermon series,” according to screenshots of the event’s Facebook page. The church, according to the Miami Herald, had remained closed for months, despite the fact that the state had not ordered churches to shut their doors, and only re-opened after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s order that allowed restaurants, bars, gyms, and other indoor facilities to re-open. As the Miami Herald noted, many of the state’s residents took their cues from their governor. The state didn’t require people to wear masks, and so the young people at the church event didn’t wear masks, according to the Herald. (Just this week, the Fort Myers city council voted down a mask mandate.)
It is undetermined, but likely, that Davis contracted covid-19 at the church party. And the actions of her parents that followed after Davis attended the party have raised some alarm bells. According to the medical examiner’s report and as reported by the Washington Post, Carsyn’s parents, who both work in the medical field (her mother is a registered nurse and her stepfather is a physician’s assistant), gave her the antibiotic azithromycin as a preventative, and then when she began getting sick, hydroxychloroquine, a discredited treatment that continues to be touted by Donald Trump.
According to a new report from the Miami Herald, her mother Carole subscribed to some beliefs, including the conspiracy theory QAnon, that likely pushed her to use dangerous treatments on her daughter. Via the Miami Herald:
In the teen’s case, there is another wrinkle: Her mother seems to be an adherent of the theory known as Q-Anon, a “viral cult” that traffics in conspiracies, including one holding that COVID-19 is part of a cover for President Donald Trump to break up the “Deep State.”
Instead of science, Davis seemed to subscribe to conspiracy theories. On social media, she expressed skepticism about vaccines and showed faith in Q-Anon. In March, Davis shared a Q-Anon post suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic was a cover for Trump to break up the so-called “Deep State” of corporations, financiers, media conglomerates and Satan-worshipping child molesters fighting against him.
Accounts linked to the Q-Anon movement have pushed an unproven — and scientists say potentially dangerous — theory that taking a combination of azithromycin, an antibiotic, and hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial, can cure COVID-19.
Carole Davis—who is, again, a registered nurse—also believed that children don’t need to wear masks, sharing links on Facebook to a website that urged schools not to require students to wear masks.
More, from the Miami Herald:
Even after Carsyn got sick, Carole Davis didn’t think masks were important for keeping children safe. On June 18, she posted anti-mask content to Facebook, calling it a “useful” resource, according to screenshots of her account obtained by the Herald.
The link she posted, which lobbied against mandatory mask wearing in school, put the burden on personal risk assessment for families with children in higher-risk categories like Carsyn.
“For the families who have children who are actually immunocompromised ... the universal masking of all students is not a solution to their concerns,” the website said. “That child’s family will have to weigh the risks of having the child attend school during COVID-19.”
At the end of the day, this is a tragedy on so many levels—the absolute incompetence of our president, the mixed messages sent from elected officials like DeSantis, and her parents’ willful refusal to heed the call to protect ourselves and others, all ending in the death of a young woman that could have been prevented. I’m so sorry, Carsyn, that so many people failed you.