Veronica Wolski, 64, died early Monday of pneumonia related to COVID-19, the Amita Resurrection Medical Center told Forbes.
Wolski was a popular far-right activist who frequently promoted her conspiracy theories through bridge protests in the city, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
She opposed coronavirus safety measures and was a devoted supporter of QAnon, the online fantasy that imagines a satanic cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles within the highest levels of Hollywood and the U.S. government. She had also previously supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“The smartest virus ever…” she posted on her Instagram last month. “It doesn’t affect those who don’t believe in it.”
Another post shows her standing with a QAnon flag that says “trust the plan.” The saying is a common refrain among believers, especially when their beliefs clash with reality.
Wolski was hospitalized with COVID-19 in late August and quickly became a pet cause for the QAnon movement, which aggressively demanded that she be treated with ivermectin.
Hospital staff have reportedly fielded hundreds of angry calls from Wolski’s supporters, and a small in-person protest also took place outside the facility earlier this month.
Ivermectin has become popular among conspiracy theorists as an offbeat “cure” for COVID-19, despite a lack of medical evidence.
Two doctors received the 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine for using ivermectin to fight parasitic diseases, and it’s proven to be effective against parasites in both humans and animals, but experts have not seen enough evidence to prove that it works against COVID-19, which is a viral illness.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned people not to self-medicate with ivermectin after a spike in poisonings from the horse-dewormer version of the stuff.
Merck, the pharmaceutical company that makes ivermectin tablets for humans, has said there is “no scientific basis” for using it as a treatment for COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other medical experts have also recommended against using ivermectin against COVID-19 outside of carefully controlled patient studies.
Nevertheless, a small but vocal group of doctors has continued to promote the drug, and it’s become popular among anti-vaxxers and Republican lawmakers. It’s also gained a foothold with Joe Rogan, the celebrity personality whose podcast is particularly popular among men (71 per cent, as per Media Monitors).
Rogan recently revealed that he tested positive for COVID-19, and that he was recovering after receiving a long list of treatments. That list included monoclonal antibodies, which are proven to work against COVID-19, and ivermectin, which is not.
Ivermectin proponents have flocked to Rogan’s defence online, just as they have flocked to Wolski’s cause.
Among those who backed Wolski were Michael Flynn, who was former U.S. president Donald Trump‘s disgraced national security adviser, and L. Lin Wood, a lawyer who tried and failed to prove Trump’s falsehoods about election fraud in court.
Flynn described Wolski on Telegram as “a patriot of the highest order, a blossom of truth in the field of fight that we find ourselves engaged in.”
Wood called for Wolski to be released from the hospital over the weekend in a video posted on Telegram.
“If you do not release her, you’re going to be guilty of murder,” he said.
Wood mourned Wolski the following day, describing her as a captive to “medical tyranny” and encouraging his followers to “go to war” for her cause.
“Non-violent civil disobedience. Let your voices be heard, patriots,” Wood said. “For Veronica. For your fellow Americans. For the world. For humanity.”
The hospital has said that its doctors follow “the full guidance of the FDA and the CDC in the treatment of Covid-19.”
U.S. President Joe Biden ordered sweeping new federal vaccines requirements for some 100 million Americans last week, amid soaring death tolls and stubborn resistance from the unvaccinated.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said in a speech last Thursday. He added that the unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”
— With files from The Associated Press