'You don't want to end up like me': Florida man begs people to wear masks in a heartbreaking video from his hospital bed

  • Florida resident Chuck Stacey recorded a video from his hospital bed on Monday, begging people to wear masks.
  • Stacey said he did not wear a mask to work, in stores, or at restaurants because of his claustrophobia and because he didn't believe masks worked.
  • His coronavirus symptoms started the day after Christmas, and now he's hospitalized and struggling to breathe.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Chuck Stacey didn't wear a mask, and now he's begging other people not to follow his example.

"I'm claustrophobic and masks were so hard. I wanted to wear one but would have panic attacks," he told Business Insider via text.

Stacey, who is 50 years old, was hospitalized with COVID-19 last week. Previously, he was "adamant" about not wearing a mask, according to his friend Daniel Uhlfelder. Instead, Stacey wore a face shield in stores and when working with clients as part of his job repairing computers and providing IT support. He didn't wear the shield when he dined at restaurants, though — he didn't see the point if he was just going to take it off to eat.

On December 26, his body started aching and he felt fatigued. He knew what was happening. The next day he got tested for the coronavirus, and the result was positive. A few days later, he was in the hospital.

"I believed this was just the flu, that it was all going to go away, that it was political. I didn't think a mask would help," Stacey said in a video he recorded at the hospital on Monday morning. He asked Uhlfelder to share it on Twitter.

"You don't want to end up like me. I'm having trouble breathing. I may have to be intubated if I get any worse," Stacey added.

His wife tested positive, too, but is recovering at home: "Bad on some days but not like me," Stacey said.

He added that anyone with claustrophobia should "get help" so that they can wear a mask.

"If wearing a mask can reduce your chances of getting this, even by 5%, just wear a mask. Do it for your children, for your loved ones. Do it for yourself," he said in the video.

'Masks become so political'

Florida has reported a record of nearly 94,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last seven days. It's one of 12 states with no statewide mask mandate, according to the AARP. Florida restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity. Clubs and bars remain open, and many have hosted unmasked, crowded parties in the last month.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has barred local governments from implementing their own mask mandates or lockdowns.

"Where we live, a lot of time if you're wearing a mask, it's like there's something wrong with you," Uhlfelder told Business Insider.

Uhlfeder, who is an attorney, has appeared on Florida beaches dressed as the Grim Reaper and filed a lawsuit against Gov. DeSantis over his management of the pandemic response in March. The lawsuit, which argues that DeSantis should have been required to implement a lockdown, has been dismissed by two judges.

Uhlfelder used to argue with Stacey about masks.

"It just seems like the masks become so political. People feel like if they wear a mask they're not supporting the president. It's just wrong," he said.

Stacey, meanwhile, said that he "listened to the wrong people say the wrong things."

The face shield that he used was better than nothing, but such shields in general do more to protect the eyes than to keep wearers from inhaling viral particles. Unlike a good mask, face shields don't form a seal around the mouth and nose.

"He's a good guy. He has a good heart," Uhlfelder said of Stacey. "It's very difficult to watch someone you know going through this."

On Tuesday morning, Stacey said his condition was improving and it was becoming easier to breathe.

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