Caleb Wallace, a leader in the anti-mask movement in central Texas, became infected with the coronavirus and has been in an intensive care unit for the past three weeks, barely clinging to life, his wife, Jessica, said.
Mrs. Wallace said that her husband’s condition was declining and that doctors have run out of treatment options. On Saturday he will be moved to a hospice at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas, so that his family can say their goodbyes, she said.
Mr. Wallace, 30, has lived in San Angelo for most of his life and works at a company that sells welding equipment. He checked into the Shannon Medical Center on July 30. Mrs. Wallace set up a GoFundMe page that has collected over $35,000, to cover the cost of medical bills.
Earlier that month, Mr. Wallace had organized a “Freedom Rally” for people who were “sick of the government being in control of our lives.”
He founded the San Angelo Freedom Defenders, a group that hosted a rally to end “Covid-19 tyranny” according to a YouTube interview with him.
“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, said in an interview.
In April, Mr. Wallace penned a letter to the San Angelo Independent School District demanding they “rescind ALL COVID-related policies immediately,” and questioning the science and efficacy of masks for schoolchildren.
Mr. Wallace’s father, Russell Wallace, said his son firmly believes mask and vaccination requirements are a violation of personal liberties. “After watching all the government overreach here he decided he wanted to do something about it,” Russell Wallace said.
Mrs. Wallace, who is pregnant with the couple’s fourth child, told the San Angelo Standard-Times that when her husband first felt ill, he took a mix of vitamin C, zinc, aspirin and ivermectin — a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms in both people and animals that has been touted as a coronavirus treatment but was recently proved ineffective against the virus.
She said her husband respected her own decision to wear a mask. “We joked around about how he was on one side and I was on the other, and that’s what made us the perfect couple and we balanced each other out,” she said.
She added that her three children are up-to-date on their vaccines and that she herself planned to get a coronavirus vaccine after the birth of her baby in late September. “We are not anti-vaxxers,” she said.
Still, Mrs. Wallace said her husband strongly believed the decision to get vaccinated or to wear a mask should rest with an individual and not with the government. “That is one of the few things I agreed with my husband on.”
Mayor Gunter said Mr. Wallace had an overwhelming love for his city. During the state’s record-breaking winter storm in February, Mr. Wallace and his father volunteered to drive out to residents trapped in their homes.
“When we are called to action, we forget about those differences and just do the right thing,” she said. Shannon Medical Center currently has 70 percent of its intensive care beds full. This August in Tom Green County, which is home to San Angelo, the seven-day average of new cases has risen to the highest level since November 2020, according to a New York Times database.
Russell Wallace, who also had Covid-19, said that he was in the hospital for 13 days, but his condition improved enough for him to return home.
Despite his own illness and his son’s dire condition, Russell Wallace said he still firmly believed that masks are ineffective and that the government should not mandate them or vaccinations. He has, however, decided to “look into” getting the shots.
“Personally for me, I’m not so hesitant about the vaccinations now,” he said. “I’ve stared down that barrel and quite honestly, it scared the hell out of me.”