Virginia pastor Landon Spradlin died Wednesday morning at a North Carolina hospital after contracting the coronavirus during a trip to New Orleans. The 66-year-old drew attention earlier this month when he shared a viral meme questioning the media's coverage of the virus. His family said the cause of death was complications from COVID-19 and double pneumonia.
Spradlin and his wife, Jean Spradlin, were still in New Orleans when Spradlin began feeling ill, Jean told the Danville Register & Bee. On their way home to Gretna, Virginia on March 17, Spreadlin could barely breathe. Jean took him to a hospital in Concord, North Carolina where he was tested for the coronavirus. The test came back positive the next day. He remained at the hospital, where he was on a ventilator for more than a week before his death.
Spradlin was the first person in the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District in Virginia to die from the coronavirus. "We express our sincere condolences to this person's family," Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District, said in a statement. "Unfortunately those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19."
Before his death, Spradlin shared a meme describing the media's coverage and the reaction to the coronavirus as "mass hysteria," reports Patch. The meme, which has since been deleted from Spaldin's Facebook post, suggested journalists used the pandemic to hurt President Donald Trump. In the comments to the post, Sptadlin wrote the coronavirus is "is a real issue, but I believe the media is pumping out fear and doing more harm than good... It will come and it will go."
Spradlin's Facebook post caught the attention of Friendly Atheist writer Bo Gardiner, who later pleaded with readers not to attack Spradlin's family in their time of grief.
"I beg you not to post disrespectfully on the family's social media," Gardiner wrote. "Not only are they grieving, that would alienate this community and damage the potential for learning from this important morality tale."
Those who knew Spradlin remembered him as a loving pastor and skilled musician. He was a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and was the leader of several non-traditional churches during his life. His daughter Jesse Spradlin called him a "modern-day Apostle Paul" who was "not just a normal minister."
"My father was a very big bunch of people-loving, Jesus-loving dynamite in a small package," Judah Strickland, another of his five children, told the Register & Bee.
"I always say he's the best blues man this side of the Mississippi," musician Stuart Jennings, who played with Spradlin, said. "He's just phenomenal, vocally and instrumentally."
Jean tested negative for the coronavirus. She is now living in quarantine at a home in North Carolina.
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