LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. (CNN) - Two coronavirus disbelievers in Arizona are changing their tune. The couple threw health safety measures out the window - and ended up contracting COVID-19.
They’re saying they’ve learned their lesson the hard way.
“We were totally lacksidaisy about it,” Debi Patterson said. She and her husband Michael Patterson didn’t think the coronavirus would ever affect them.
“We didn’t have anybody here that we knew that had it so it was sort of almost like a joke among our group of friends,” she said. They didn’t wear masks, hung out with their group of friends like normal “and paid the price for it.”
From Lake Havasu City in Arizona’s far northwestern corner, the Pattersons didn’t give the virus much thought, even once developing symptoms in late June.
“We kind of just carried on, went to the pool, did stuff over the rest of the weekend. And then that Monday morning, we both woke up and felt like a train had gone over both of us,” Debi Patterson said.
Michael Patterson got sick. Debbie Patterson had to be hospitalized, put on oxygen, but did not need a ventilator.
Over a month later, she’s still suffering: “Obviously still short of breath, coughing, just the fatigue, dizziness and headaches, almost daily. It’s almost like like someone hit you in the head.”
They once laughed about the virus. Now they say it’s no joke.
“Be more careful,” Debi Patterson said. “Keep your distance. And wear a freaking mask,” Michael Patterson said.
In this ultra conservative corner of the state, masks are still highly controversial.
“We make any member or customer walking through our doors remove their face mask. That’s our pride,” gun shop owner Patrick Baughman said. “Absolutely. You do not shop in my store with a mask on. Period.”
For conservatives like Baughman, the coronavirus itself doesn’t add up.
“I definitely don’t agree with that number that you just threw out there,” he responded when told there have been 150,000 deaths. “There are so many cases of fraudulent claims with how they’re reporting numbers.”
Public health officials believe the number of dead from COVID-19 is probably higher than the official count, not less.
Baughman said he thinks that the president is playing politics by calling for masks. “Unfortunately, I do think he’s just playing politics because originally he came out calling this entire thing a hoax,” he said.
For the Pattersons, the coronavirus is no hoax, and speaking out is not a political act, it’s a friendly warning.
“It’s ridiculous not to take this seriously. I could have died just like the next person. Anyone can. It could have been either one of us or both of us,” Debi Patterson said.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Arizona has seen more than 178,000 coronavirus cases. More than 3,700 hundred people in the state have died.