Former mask skeptic is now proselytizing convert after monthlong bout with COVID-19

Once a mask skeptic, Ta’Marsh Pope is now a convert, thanks to a monthlong coronavirus bout that separated her from her son and left her wondering whether she’d wake up the next day.

“I look at life differently now,” the 47-year-old single mom told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “It can happen to anybody.”

Healthy and energetic, Pope never thought she would catch COVID-19. In fact she wasn’t sure it was even a thing.

“I was like, OK, is this really real?” she told The Enquirer. “You keep hearing different stories, oh, they say coronavirus is not real. I was sitting having mixed feelings about it.”

“I was doubting it,” she told ABC News. “Everyone who was dying … how did we know it was COVID-19?”

Around Father’s Day, though, the eligibility technician at Hamilton County Job & Family Services in Cincinnati, got her answer.

She started feeling sick, first with a headache that wouldn’t quit and then with fever, cough and searing pain, she told The Enquirer. After testing positive for COVID-19, she sent her son to live with his dad.

Over the next month, Pope went to the hospital four times, but there was nothing the staff could do, The Enquirer said, but send her home to recover. Her blood oxygen remained normal, though she could barely breathe.

Her boyfriend took care of her until he too got sick. She kept in touch with her parents and son by phone, when she wasn’t too weak. And she posted updates on social media, when she had the strength.

As of Tuesday evening Ohio had logged 95,106 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the state Department of Health, with 3,570 deaths. Across the U.S., 4.7 million have been confirmed infected, and 156,668 had died by Tuesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Several studies have indicated that wearing masks can significantly slow transmission of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

It was after Pope posted about her final, negative test that Regina Carswell Russo, the executive director of the regional COVID Communications Center, contacted her and asked if she’d appear in a public service announcement advocating for mask wearing. Pope jumped at the opportunity. She now recounts the ordeal in the PSA, one of several running throughout August that started July 23-25.

“This is not a virus to be played with,” Pope now tells television viewers as part of Ohio’s “Masks On” campaign. “When I said [I had] pain, I mean pain. Sometimes it’s unbearable pain. You don’t want to go through that.”

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