A teenage city council member in Morgan County, Alabama, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday after railing against mask mandates said he’s now battling coronavirus-related pneumonia in the hospital.
“I am still shallow in breathing but my oxygen remains okay for now,” Decatur City Councilman Hunter Pepper, 19, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He received a CT scan on Wednesday night that confirmed he has COVID pneumonia, “which is absolutely terrible,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Pepper—who’s repeatedly slammed mask mandates and refused to get vaccinated— said that he took two rapid tests and a PCR test for the coronavirus after he started to feel sick on Monday.
“Well, it has finally happened to me. Unfortunately, this morning I have confirmed two positive [tests] for Covid-19,” Pepper wrote Wednesday on Facebook. Everything In me wants to tell myself it is something different but every way I look it’s ‘Covid this, Covid that’ and it has terrified me and my family.”
Pepper wrote that he was “terrified” by the way that the media “continues to report on Covid-19 and explains ‘Death’ each time they do,” adding that he has “faith in the lord.”
“Maybe this will clear up soon and the symptoms of this sickness shall not progress as I can tell you, it feels terrible not to be able to breathe.”
He later told the Decatur Daily News that he had begun to show a “massive amount of symptoms” of the virus on Wednesday and that his oxygen levels were “holding a little well, and I don’t feel good at all.”
Pepper’s diagnosis has raised concerns over whether he may have exposed other local officials during a city council work session earlier in the week.
Carlton McMasters, a councilman who was seated beside Pepper at the in-person meeting, told the outlet that he has not had any symptoms.
“I’m fully vaccinated,” McMasters said, according to the outlet. “I’m trying my best to follow the CDC guidelines.”
Pepper, who is training to become an emergency medical technician, has routinely challenged pandemic-related restrictions as a city councilman, both slamming mask mandates and opting not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the outlet reported.
“I don’t believe you should be forced to do something like this, it’s wrong and it’s government overreach,” Pepper said in April as the city considered repealing a local mask mandate, according to WAFF.
“Me wearing a mask should be my choice,” Pepper said, days later, in an April 9 vote to end the city’s mask order, per WAAY.
Last month, Pepper, who became the youngest person elected to Decatur’s city council last year, vowed that he would “fight to the end” against another city mask mandate.
Only 41 percent of the county’s eligible population has been vaccinated, CDC data shows.
“Everybody at City Hall is over 18 and old enough to make their own medical decisions,” he declared at the time.
On Aug. 18, the Alabama Hospital Association said that there were “negative 29” ICU beds available in the state, meaning that dozens of people in the emergency room were kept waiting for beds to be vacated for treatment, WBRC reported at the time.
As the Delta variant ripped through the state over the summer, Alabama saw a massive COVID-19 spike, with more cases recorded in August than in any month since the pandemic began.