The Slatest

Texan Man Who Organized Anti-Mask Protests Dies of COVID

An Emergency Room nurse tends to a patient at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on August 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas.
An Emergency Room nurse tends to a patient at the Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on August 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Caleb Wallace, who was a leader in protesting mask requirements and other COVID-19-related restrictions in central Texas, died after a monthlong battle with the coronavirus, his wife said on Saturday. “Caleb has peacefully passed on. He will forever live in our hearts and minds,” Jessica Wallace, Caleb’s wife, wrote on the family’s GoFundMe page. A day earlier, Jessica Wallace had written that “Caleb won’t make it much longer.” Wallace, who lived in San Angelo, Texas for most of his life, was hospitalized on July 30. The father of three, with another on the way, quickly deteriorated and had been unconscious and heavily sedated since Aug. 8.

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Wallace became known in his community for opposing COVID-19 restrictions and was the founder of the San Angelo Freedom Defenders, which hosted a rally to end “COVID-19 tyranny.” In the same month he was hospitalized, Wallace organized a “Freedom rally” that called for people who were “sick of the government in in control of our lives” to join their protest. “They believed the coronavirus was a hoax and they felt that the government was being too heavy-handed when it came to masks,” San Angelo’s mayor, Brenda Gunter, told the New York Times.

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In April, Wallace wrote a letter to the San Angelo Independent School District demanding an end to “ALL COVID-related policies immediately,” questioning the efficacy of masks for children and saying they are actually harmful. “With so few kids getting sick from this virus, and so little evidence that masks worked for anyone, why isn’t your administration taking in the account the harmful effects of masking on children?” Wallace wrote.

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Wallace started experiencing typical COVID-19 symptoms on July 26, including fever and cough. At first, he refused to get tested or go to the hospital. “He was so hard-headed,” Jessica Wallace told the San Angelo Standard-Times. “He didn’t want to see a doctor, because he didn’t want to be part of the statistics with COVID tests.” At first he tried to self-medicate with Vitamin C, zinc aspirin, an inhaler, and ivermectin tablets. But a few days later, a relative took him to the emergency room.

Jessica Wallace, who is eight months pregnant, said she wore a mask and her husband respected her decision even if he sometimes told her it was futile. She also said she planned to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after her baby was born. “We are not anti-vaxxers,” she insisted, noting all her children have their vaccines.

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