Florida Teen Who Contracted Coronavirus Dies After Mother Took Her to Church Party, Then Treated Her With Hydroxychloroquine

A Florida medical examiner's report has raised questions about a 17-year-old Fort Myers resident's death from COVID-19 complications last month. The teenager, Carsyn Davis, was a cancer survivor with a rare, ongoing autoimmune disorder. She died of respiratory failure after contracting the new coronavirus in early June.

The medical examiner's report notes that Davis attended a 100-person church event, where people were not required to wear face masks, roughly two weeks before she died in a Miami-Dade County hospital. During the nine days that followed, she was given antibiotics, hydroxychloroquine and oxygen via her grandfather's portable machine by her parents while at home. Her mother, Carole Brunton Davis, is a nurse. The hospital recommended intubation when Davis was admitted to its pediatric unit on June 19, but her parents declined the procedure, according to the county medical examiner. She received plasma therapy and was eventually intubated on June 22, but died one day later.

Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that President Donald Trump praised as a COVID-19 treatment method throughout much of the pandemic, was later flagged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as possibly detrimental to patients' health. The FDA explained it could potentially cause "serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems" in a statement released April 24.

A box containing hydroxychloroquine is pictured inside a pharmacy in Paris, on May 28. Hydroxychloroquine has been flagged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as possibly detrimental to patients' health. Marc Piasecki/Getty

Local news outlets published reports about Davis' death at the end of June, citing comments that her mother wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post. On Sunday, data scientist Rebekah Jones called attention to the medical examiner's findings in her own report, published as part of a project called Florida COVID Victims. The project is one element of a larger initiative, Florida COVID Action, which independently reports the state's coronavirus statistics.

Jones formerly oversaw the Florida Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard but was removed from her position in May, as Florida began to reopen. In an email that went viral soon after, Jones suggested the reason she no longer managed the health department's virus data was rooted in her commitment to "accessibility and transparency." She continues to publish Florida's virus data through Florida COVID Action. The project's mission statement says it aims to do so "in the proper context" and "without a political agenda."

On Monday, Jones told Newsweek she found the medical examiner's report on Davis' death while conducting research for Florida COVID Victims.

"I was validating deaths data between the Medical Examiner's reports, the Department of Health's case-line data, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's reports as part of a larger project to find deaths that have been removed from DOH's case data when I found the report about Carsyn Davis," Jones said, adding that she initially noticed the report because it was a pediatric case.

"I started looking into her mother, the church where the COVID party was held with more than 100 children, her health history, and who she was and I felt so angry and sad that this happened," she continued.

Davis was a member of the congregation at Fort Myers' First Assembly of God. The church reportedly hosted a "party" on June 10. The Facebook post that advertised the event was deleted from the church's social media page on Monday. Screenshots of the post show it advertised a "release party" complete with a DJ, karaoke and basketball.

First Assembly of God denied claims it hosted a "COVID-19 party" in a statement released on Tuesday morning. Its statement also said the church "is following all health protections and protocols recommended by the state and local government" during events.

"Over the past 24 hours First Assembly of God of Fort Myers has been accused of hosting 'COVID-19 parties.' Nothing could be farther from the truth. First Assembly of God of Fort Myers is following all of the health protections and protocols recommended by the state and local government with regard to holding its church services," the statement reads. "Let us be clear—media reports and postings accusing the church of ignoring protocols or actively engaging in behavior intended to expose our congregation to the virus are absolutely false and defamatory."

Newsweek reached out to First Assembly of God to clarify if "church services" include parties but did not hear back in time for publication.

When asked for further comment, the Fort Myers medical examiner's office responded, "At this time, we can not verify nor deny if Carsyn Davis attended a large church function that social distancing was not practiced."

Correction: This headline has been updated to say the church hosted a party, not a coronavirus party as previously stated. More information was added to the story regarding the nature of the party.

Update: This story was updated to include a statement from the First Assembly of God and a comment from the Fort Myers medical examiner's office.