The daughter of an unvaccinated county official in Florida who died after COVID-19 swept through the government office building where she worked, says she and her family are steadfast in denying their shots even though their mother’s inoculated colleagues did not get sick at all.
“No one in my family gets the vaccine,” Molly Hart told The Daily Beast.
Hart’s mother, 58-year-old Mary Knight, died last week after complications related to COVID-19, Manatee County officials said. Knight was an IT customer service supervisor and had worked for the county for 15 years. Another unvaccinated member of the IT department, 53-year-old systems analyst Alphonso Cox, also died last week after coming down with COVID. Three others in the office who were unvaccinated and contracted the virus were sick enough to be hospitalized but survived.
None of their vaccinated colleagues were affected at all, said county administrator Dr. Scott Hopes in a statement.
The county administration building was closed in the wake of the outbreak. It reopened Monday, though masking remains optional, Manatee officials said. The county supplies N95 masks to unvaccinated visitors and employees who choose them, according to authorities.
Hart described Knight, who also taught a computer course at the University of South Florida, as “the most loving, giving, and hardworking person I have ever known.”
“She was beyond intelligent and a quick problem solver,” Hart said. “She did everything for her children and grandchildren. Her clients and students were thrilled at how helpful and kind she was. She had a 5/5 on [online site] Rate my professors from all her students and just lovely comments about how useful her courses were. ”
Hart also does not believe that COVID was really responsible for killing his mother.
“She was always a busy worker bee,” Hart said. “She did not know how to rest and gave her everything for everything she did. Stress killed her, not COVID. A healthy body and an immune system [do] do not need the vaccine. “(This is false according to public health experts.)
Knight had had a lot to do with the last four months, Hart explained: A difficult boss at work who helped look after his grandson while Hart’s husband was on military leave and looked after his youngest son after he was badly injured in an accident, her father’s death and a painful dispute with his father’s widow over his property. Knight returned to work on June 1 and was immediately given COVID, Hart continued.
“She was already so worn out by life that her immune system was so weak and it could not fight COVID as it needed to,” insisted Hart, a physiotherapist in Bradenton.
Hart said Knight had recovered well and that her death “made no sense at all.”
“It was a scary thing that she died,” she said. “She died on the exact same day as my father, who died exactly one year ago. His depression jumped out of control due to the forced lockdown. (National suicide rates actually dropped last year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.)
Derrick Randall, who runs a community center where Cox had volunteered for the past 25 years as an athletic trainer, described him as “a phenomenal man, a humble man.”
“Coach Al would pick up kids at their home and take them to training and then take them home again after training,” Randall told The Daily Beast. “He was just a gentle giant. Attempting to fill the void is something that I will not even try to try because it cannot be done. ”
County Administrator Hopes, who is a trained epidemiologist, said at a news conference Monday that he believes the eruption that killed Knight and Cox could have involved the Delta variant. The strain, which was first identified in India, is significantly more transmissible than previous varieties and now amounts to approx. 10 percent of U.S. COVID cases. However, a new study found that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 88 percent effective against the Delta variant and provide as much as 96 percent protection against hospitalization.
About 43 percent of Manatee County residents have been fully vaccinated. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a decree banning so-called vaccine passports, which banned companies from requiring proof of vaccination from customers and suspended all mandates across the state. He also stated that he would pardon anyone who was punished by Florida counties or municipalities for violating public health restrictions.
“We really need everyone to get on board, whether it’s vaccination testing, prevention, everything is so, so, so, so important,” Florida Department of Health Information Officer Christopher Tittel told FOX13. “Vaccinations only work if people are vaccinated.”
Services for Knight and Cox are held Friday and Saturday.