Unvaccinated Man Hospitalized With COVID Now 'Huge Advocate' for Vaccine

An unvaccinated man hospitalized in Louisiana with COVID-19 has now become a "huge advocate" for the vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Cedric Daniels was paying a visit to his nephew, Joshua Bradstreet Contreras, in New Orleans when both tested positive for the virus within days of each other. Contreras was rushed to the hospital and put in a medically induced coma, followed days later by Daniels. Neither had been vaccinated, saying they were young (37 and 22) and healthy and likely wouldn't need it.

"I am now a huge advocate for doctor's orders," Daniels said. "They think we ought to get vaccinated, I think we ought to get vaccinated."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Unvaccinated Man Becomes Vaccine Advocate After COVID
A nurse treats COVID-19 patient Cedric Daniels, 37, on Monday at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. He now says he wishes he had gotten a vaccine. Ted Jackson/Associated Press

But just days after Daniels went to visit Contreras—a long-awaited reunion that came after not seeing each other for months because of the pandemic—the nephew was rushed away in an ambulance. He couldn't breathe, even when sitting completely still.

At about the same time, Daniels started feeling weak, had blurred vision and was so short of breath he could barely make it from his couch in the living room to the bathroom. He tested positive for the virus, then went to a hospital in Baton Rouge already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, where he stayed for a week on oxygen as he recovered from pneumonia.

Contreras and Daniels are among a flood of patients filling up overloaded hospitals across the U.S. amid a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the virus's highly contagious Delta variant. Health officials say the most serious cases have been among the unvaccinated.

"It is frustrating because it's preventable...but more than that, it's really sad," said James Ford, a critical care doctor in the ICU at Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center in Baton Rouge, where Daniels was treated.

To help with the influx, the hospital brought in a disaster medical assistance team of nearly three dozen health care workers on Monday. That same day, hospital leaders at a news conference where Governor John Bel Edwards announced a reinstated statewide mask mandate described grim conditions across Louisiana: facilities filled with COVID-19 patients, including children, and hospital hallways lined with stretchers because there aren't enough beds.

"A lot of them are debilitated and need around-the-clock care," said Ford, who has been working on his days off to help ease his hospital's burden. "It's very labor-intensive."

Some of those patients, like Daniels, now wish they had taken the shot.

"They're talking about putting tubes down your throat possibly if your oxygen doesn't go up within the next hour, and that is frightening," he told the AP on Monday as he lay in a bed with an oxygen tube in his nose. He was released shortly afterward but still must use oxygen at home.

Daniels, who lives in Gonzales, about 57 miles northwest of New Orleans, said he and Contreras were the only unvaccinated members of their households. Daniels' wife and live-in mother-in-law, both of whom were inoculated months ago, have both tested negative twice since he tested positive.

Contreras' mother, Tarsha Bradstreet, had also been vaccinated, as had her 19-year-old son who lives in the same house in New Orleans. Bradstreet said she tried to persuade Contreras to get the shot, but said she had only so much pull over him.

"Josh hardly goes anywhere since COVID hit, so he didn't think he needed the vaccine," Bradstreet said.

One of the places to which Contreras did go, however, was his summer job at Café Reconcile. About the time he started getting ill, he got a call from the restaurant telling him that a co-worker had tested positive for the virus and he needed to get tested himself.

"He had a headache and some nausea, so at first we thought it was dehydration," Bradstreet said. "A week later, he couldn't smell. He couldn't breathe. I noticed his breath was quick and rapid, and he could barely stand up or do anything. I had to call an ambulance."

A while later, the hospital called and said, "'Your son is on a ventilator,' and I almost died," Bradstreet said. "I couldn't believe it. I didn't realize how serious it was. I didn't know. He almost died."

Bradstreet talks to her son every day through one of the hospital's portable laptops, so that he can hear her voice even if he can't see her.

She also prays a lot and hopes that sharing her son's story will motivate others who have not yet been vaccinated to go and get the shot.

"When we go through things, it's to help other people, to teach people something," she said. "Their choice may leave them in the hospital. Maybe they'll get the lesson before they have to go through this."

Unvaccinated Man Becomes Vaccine Advocate After COVID
Louisiana is leading the nation in the number of new COVID cases per capita and remains one of the bottom five states in administering vaccinations. Above, COVID-19 vaccines are prepared at a clinic in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday. Spencer Platt/Getty Images