LOS ANGELES -- A Southern California man in his 30s who openly mocked vaccines in social media posts has died after a hospitalization for COVID-19.
Stephen Harmon had joked about the vaccine and declared he would never get one, tweeting modified Jay-Z lyrics "I got 99 problems but a vax ain't one."
Even in his hospital bed, he remained defiant, declaring on Instagram "... I will not be getting vaccinated once I am discharged and released."
Harmon was an active member of the Hillsong church. Church founder Brian Houston tweeted that he just learned "the devastating news that our beloved friend, Stephen Harmon has passed away from Covid. Heartbreaking."
Houston added on Instagram: "Stephen was just a young man in his early 30's. He was a graduate from Hillsong College and a vital part of our church in California. He was one of the most generous people I know and he had so much in front of him. He would always turn up to our grandkids soccer games and he will be missed by so many. RIP."
Harmon, 34, chronicled his hospital stay on social media, tweeting that he was resisting intubation even as his condition continued to decline. In his final tweet, he said he finally agreed to intubation. He died later that day.
Harmon's story is one that doctors say is becoming too prevalent across Southern California - and the entire country.
Case numbers are skyrocketing once again, as the more-contagious Delta variant takes hold - and after the state lifted restrictions last month on business capacity and distancing.
On Friday, Los Angeles County reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases - roughly 15 times the number seen just a month ago. The county has reported more than 10,000 new cases in just the last four days.
Hospitalizations and deaths are increasing as well, though not as sharply as the infection numbers.
As of Friday, there are 655 COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County hospitals, an increase of 200 from the week before. There were seven additional deaths reported Friday.
Health experts say most of the cases and nearly all of the hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.
They are continuing to plead with the public to get vaccinated to avoid a fate like Harmon's.
"If we didn't have 5.3 million people fully vaccinated in L.A. County, we would probably be seeing almost double the number of cases today," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of LA County Public Health.
"As cases continue to rise, many of us are trying to figure out what steps to take to minimize exposure to the virus. For those eligible and not yet vaccinated, now would be an important time to get your vaccine because our three vaccines all offer a lot of protection to the vaccinated person and also slow down the spread."
In Sacramento, a woman is urging others to get vaccinated after losing her husband to COVID.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there and we just wanted to see how it affected people before we decided to get it," Mia Ponte Vinnard said. "But we didn't do it in time--we didn't think about it until it was too late at that point."
She and her husband Brad Vinnard hesitated to get vaccinated because the issue had been so politicized.
"One of his last posts on Facebook was 'please go get vaccinated, this is nothing nice,'" Vinnard said. "And then he asked me, 'honey, please go tell our friends to go get vaccinated. Show them the picture of me in here and tell them they don't want to be where I'm at right now."
68-year-old Brad Vinnard died on Saturday. He was a salesman and an avid motorcyclist.