Carsyn Davis of Fort Myers, Florida, was, by all accounts, an exceptional young person. At 17, Davis was a survivor of childhood cancer and an autoimmune disorder, and she regularly volunteered with special needs children and at the Special Olympics. She was heavily involved with her youth church group and bowled for her high school bowling league.
On June 13th, according to a coroner’s report, Davis started to develop symptoms such as a headache, sinus pressure, and a mild cough. Her parents, a physician’s assistant and a nurse, thought she was developing a sinus infection. Six days later, however, they started to notice she looked “grey” while she slept. When they checked her oxygen levels, they found they were dangerously low. So they decided to give her a dose of hydroxychloroquine, the medicine President Trump has touted as a miracle drug to cure COVID-19. (The FDA withdrew its support for hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment last month, saying it was “unlikely to be effective in treating” the disease while presenting “serious side effects.”) Then they took her to Gulf Coast Medical Center, where she was immediately transferred to a pediatric ICU.
On June 19th, six days after she first developed symptoms, Davis tested positive for COVID-19. On June 22nd, she was intubated, and was pronounced dead the following day.
Following her death, data scientist Rebekah Jones posted the coroner’s report and a brief obituary on a website devoted to the state’s COVID-19 victims. Davis has become a symbol for her home state’s mishandling of the disease (the state reached 214,000 cases and more than 3,000 confirmed deaths as of July 7th, 2020), as well as the dangers of the misinformation associated with the virus.
The case’s notoriety is in part due to initial erroneous press reports suggesting that Davis contracted the virus at a “COVID party” at a local church. COVID parties are a common narrative that has circulated in states such as Alabama and Louisiana over the past few months, but as Rolling Stone wrote back in May, they are largely a myth. Because the coroner’s report stated that Davis’s parents had given her azithromycin, a potential COVID-19 treatment, after the event, some media outlets initially concluded she had attended the event with the intention of contracting the illness. Davis’s church, First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, called this claim “false and defamatory,” stating, “those allegations are absolutely false and are based upon irresponsible speculation and inaccurate information.” It then set its Facebook page to private following social media backlash. (The church did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)
According to the coroner’s report posted on Jones’s blog, however, it is true that Davis’s mother did take her to a large gathering at her church with 100 other children on June 10th, where she did not wear a mask. Facebook posts advertising the event described it as a welcome-back party after quarantine. “Service is back and better than ever! We will be having our Release Party in the gym TONIGHT at 6:45. There will be games, awesome giveaways, free food, a DJ and music, and the start of our new sermon series. AND we’ll be starting Summer Nights afterwords [sic] with karaoke and basketball! We hope to see you there!” (A spokesperson for the church confirmed Davis was present at the event; in an interview with NBC2, Pastor David Thomas said the church wasn’t going to be policing the event and it was attendees’ responsibility to socially distance.)
Although Davis’s mother, Carole Brunton Davis, has removed her Facebook page, screen grabs from her social media posted on Twitter indicate that she had posted a link to a website called Don’t Mask Our Kids, expressing anti-mask sentiment. While her daughter was in the hospital, according to the screen grabs, Brunton Davis also said she was outraged that the hospital refused to give her hydroxychloroquine, with the doctors “citing ‘new studies’ [quotes hers] that it does not work and can be harmful.”
In a cached post on CVS Pharmacy’s Facebook page from 2016 found by Rolling Stone, Brunton Davis also said she would be boycotting the pharmacy due to the 2016 policy from Target, which owns CVS, allowing transgender customers and employees to use the bathrooms of their choice. “I will not put my family (young daughter) at risk because they need to be politically correct,” the post reads.