After vowing on social media that he would never wear a mask, Ohio veteran Richard Rose III, 37, passed away from complications related to the novel coronavirus.
According to an obituary shared online, Rose passed away on July 4, just three days after being diagnosed with the virus.
On April 28, Rose shared a Facebook post where he said he was "not buying a f***ing mask."
"I've made it this far by not buying into that damn hype," he wrote.
On July 1, he shared two posts, one saying that he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and planning to get tested.
"I’ve been very sick the past few days," he wrote. "Symptoms of Covid-19. This morning I finally got swabbed. I should know soon what the results are. I just want to feel good again!"
Later that day, he confirmed that he had tested positive for the illness and was quarantining for 14 days.
On July 2, he shared another update about his symptoms, saying that having the virus "sucks" and mentioning that he was out of breath even while sitting still.
After his death was announced, his post about not wearing a mask went viral, with many adding negative comments and suggesting that his death could have been prevented if he had followed safety guidelines. At the time, Ohio did not mandate mask-wearing; as of July 7, masks are required in 'Red Alert Level 3 Health Emergency' areas.
The post has garnered thousands of shares and reactions, along with more than 800 comments.
Nick Conley, a friend of Rose's, spoke to local news station WOIO to defend his friend's legacy.
"Rick is getting slaughtered online right now for his decision that he made not to wear a mask, and that's not right," Conley told the outlet. "We should still be compassionate whether we agree with someone's beliefs or not. Someone has passed away and we should have some compassion towards that."
"You hear about this virus and you don't expect it to affect people, younger people like ourselves," Conley continued, echoing a belief that the virus is less likely to affect younger populations. Rose's family told WOIO that he had no pre-existing health conditions.
"Just before the patient died, they looked at their nurse and said 'I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it's not,'" Dr. Jane Appleby, chief medical officer at Methodist Healthcare in San Antonio, told a local affiliate.
Conley told WOIO that he hopes Rose's death will drive home the importance of wearing a mask.
“It’s horrible that we lost Rick but the even more tragic part of that is who else became infected because of the actions that he chose,” Conley said. "... I know a lot of people that haven’t met someone that they know of that has been diagnosed with the virus and I wanted people to see it was real and my hope is that people will see that this does happen and people will be more cautious."