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‘I made mistakes’: Man changes mind on wearing a mask after COVID-19 hospitalization

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Chuck Stacey rarely ever wore a mask living in Inlet Beach, Fla. Then he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Since then, he said his health has rapidly deteriorated. After spending several days hooked up to an oxygen tank inside a local hospital, Stacey said he was wrong and has been begging people to adhere to public safety guidelines.

“You don’t want to end up like me,” Stacey said in a video posted to Twitter by a friend on Monday, where he was later identified in a series of tweets. In the video, Stacey appears to be in a dark hospital room, with several tubes hooked up to his nose.

“I’m having trouble breathing. I may have to be intubated if I get any worse… It affects every person different, but if it affects you the way it’s affecting me, you don’t want it.”

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Almost one week after the video surfaced, Stacey tweeted he was able to return home from the hospital on Friday.

“I am home safe and sound recovering. This has been an ordeal,” the tweet read.

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“The doctors have a message for everyone. NOTHING is 100% on this. They say masks, sanitize, social distance, but most important, isolate.”

In a series of tweets, Stacey indicated his wife had also become infected, although he said she had a milder case that did not require hospitalization. He also said he’d received death threats online.

In the week leading up to Stacey’s diagnosis, he said he had gone to a customer’s house and to PetSmart wearing a face shield, stopped at the gas station, pumped his gas, paid with his card and gone home, where he remained with his wife throughout the week of Christmas.

Then he started feeling sick.

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By Tuesday, Stacey said he was being well taken care of in the hospital, and slowly recovering. He thanked supporters for their warm wishes.

“I’m human, I make mistakes,” he said.

“I just looked at the numbers and the numbers that I saw… The numbers made it look like a really, really bad flu.”

As of Saturday, 1,449,252 people in the state had tested positive for the virus, according to the latest numbers from Florida’s government. More than 65,000 remain hospitalized to date, while 22,666 people in the state have died.

Florida is one of few states without a mask mandate, where restaurants, clubs and bars operate at full capacity. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis extended an executive order barring local leaders from enforcing mask mandates on Nov. 24, 2020.

Read more: ‘It’s time for them to step up and break this up’ — B.C. nurse frustrated with anti-mask rallies

Florida has been a hotbed for Canadian snowbirds, who typically fly south for the winter each year and are lining up in the U.S. to receive the state’s Moderna vaccine at a rate that has been likened to nabbing tickets for a “Rolling Stones concert.”

Stacey said he fell prey to party politics that he said “politicized” the virus, and asked members of the public to come together to help fight COVID-19.

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“I didn’t wear a mask. I should’ve. I didn’t. I believed it was just a flu, that it was all going to go away, that it was political. I didn’t think a mask would help,” he said in a video posted Tuesday.

“I thought it was a bad flu. I didn’t know. I listened to the wrong people say the wrong things. I was wrong.”