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N.B. man speaks out against COVID misinformation as family battles the virus

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Joe Gee knows the impact of COVID-19 denial on a family.

At least 10 members of Gee’s family have contracted the virus after downplaying its severity and refusing to get vaccinated due to misinformation circulating about the efficacy of the shot.

Some of those family members have ended up in the hospital, even the ICU.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Gee, who lives in a rural area outside of Perth-Andover, N.B.

Read more: Many COVID-19 patients insist ‘it’s not real’ until they die, nurse says

He said his family refused to get vaccinated because they thought it was poison. Despite his family’s stance, he tried to encourage them to take it seriously. He and his fiancée Tracy are fully vaccinated.

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“It’s like beating a dead horse,” he said of his attempts to convince relatives to roll up their sleeves.

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“People’s ideas of what was going on kept changing and evolving — it kept getting bigger and closer to home — and then it became ‘OK, we accept that the pandemic is real but vaccines, they’re bad.'”

Slowly, infections took hold of his relatives and he was bouncing between three houses caring for loved ones struggling to battle COVID-19 infections. For him, it was scary.

Information began to disseminate among families members, he said, and it snowballed.

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He said the lack of clear information causes a lot of division among the family — almost like there were two sides: the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.

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“I had to speak up,” he said.

“This isn’t fun, and what you see – what this disease can do to family members and family relationships – it’s devastating.

Gee has been speaking out in the media and on social media in an effort to raise awareness about how COVID denialism impacts families and how serious the virus is.

He said a lot of the misinformation his family received was from a local church, which he chose not to name. He said the church and its leader used the virus as a way to test people’s faith, saying that God would protect them.

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“It’s denial,” he said. “They know who they are. Everyone in town has been coming up to me, and they’ve all been saying the same person.

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“I hope that that person is scared. I hope they’re sweating in their boots because when this is over with, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

Gee said he will not stop until those responsible for spreading misinformation face consequences, calling those who are doing so “false prophets.”

Read more: N.B. reports 4 deaths and 140 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

Public Health originally did not include churches among the list of places that would require proof of vaccination, despite a large number of cases originating from religious settings.

However, on Sept. 21, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he expected faith-based organizations to follow the proof of vaccination policy.

On Oct. 2, Public Health said it would be sending public safety officers to institutions of faith to check on compliance.

Mayor shows support for Gee

Perth-Andover Mayor Marianne Bell supports Gee in his efforts in raising awareness about misinformation. She spoke directly to faith-based organizations spreading misinformation about COVID-19 in the area when speaking with Global News on Friday.

“I think a lot of people who aren’t vaccinated think it’s a gamble to take the vaccine, they’re concerned about what it is in it,” she said.

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Read more: How do you spot and debunk misinformation? Experts chime in

“I’m not a gambler. People need to understand if they’re getting vaccinated (that it is a risk, but they’re) also taking a risk if they don’t, and the gambling odds are just so much better if you get the vaccine.”

She said this new wave of infection is startling and is hitting the community much differently than it did in the first half of the pandemic.

“It’s just so sad that when the Delta variant takes hold, it seems to be hitting people here. It would be sad where ever it hit people.”

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