VIRGINIA — A 66-year-old Virginia resident who fell ill with the new coronavirus, or COVID-19, on a trip to New Orleans died Wednesday morning at a hospital in Concord, North Carolina. The death of Landon Spradlin, an accomplished musician and a pastor, has drawn viral attention online, in part because earlier this month Spradlin questioned whether media coverage of the disease was overblown.
Spradlin lived in Gretna, a small town in Pittsylvania County, about halfway between Lynchburg and Danville.
While driving home from New Orleans, Spradlin, who had pastored at several different churches over the years, started feeling much worse. He and his wife, Jean Spradlin, stopped in Concord, where he was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He was eventually put on a ventilator as his condition worsened before he died.
Because of hospital restrictions, Spradlin's daughter, Judah Strickland, was not able to be with her father before he died. Strickland told WTVD that she'll try to carry on her father's legacy of faith and music.
Some media outlets have noted that Spradlin shared a meme on his Facebook page that compared coronavirus deaths to swine flu deaths. The meme described the reaction to the coronavirus as "mass hysteria" and suggested the media was using the pandemic to hurt President Donald Trump.
In the comments to the Facebook post, Spradlin said he believes the coronavirus "is a real issue, but I believe the media is pumping out fear and doing more harm than good."
"It will come and it will go," he wrote.
Bo Gardiner at Patheos and other news sites published articles Thursday highlighting the meme that Spradlin had shared. However, Gardiner urged readers "not to post disrespectfully on the family’s social media."
Nonetheless, some people have left comments on his Facebook page, calling him an "idiot" and expressing little sympathy for his family members.
Jean Spradlin, who has been in isolation since they arrived in North Carolina, has tested negative for coronavirus but does have double pneumonia, like her husband did. Double pneumonia is when both lungs are infected.
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Spradlin's death appears to be showing up in the Virginia Department of Health's data on the coronavirus. The department is reporting one adult death in the state's Pittsylvania-Danville Health District as of Thursday. The department does not release the names of people who test positive or who die from the coronavirus.
Virginia's cases of the new coronavirus increased to 460 on Thursday. Deaths due to COVID-19 are up to 13 statewide and 65 people are hospitalized. The latest state count does not include the death of a staff member with Loudoun County Public Schools, which Loudoun County reported Thursday.
The Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis recognized Spradlin in 2016, inducting him as a Great Blues Artist from Virginia and as an Ambassador from Virginia.
Roanoke singer Kerry Hurley, a friend of Spradlin’s, posted to Facebook Wednesday morning that Spradlin "spread the word of God every day he was alive and he praised and worshiped like no other … He will be in my heart until I see his sweet face again in heaven. I love you brother. That’s the last thing he said to me.”
Hurley wrote in his Facebook post that Spradlin's family "probably won’t even be able to properly bury him or have any kind of funeral." Hurley said he plans to have a celebration of his friend when people can gather again. “Anyone that had the honor of knowing him and playing music with him should be there,” he wrote.