A conservative Washington state lawmaker has died at age 52 just over a month after announcing he was stranded in El Salvador “fighting a bad bout” of COVID-19.
Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen, an outspoken opponent of vaccine mandates and pandemic-related restrictions, announced in mid-November that he had tested positive for the virus.
After appealing to fellow lawmakers for help in receiving monoclonal antibodies, his whereabouts became a bit of a mystery, with reports confirming only that he was receiving treatment in a Florida hospital. For weeks, his condition was completely unknown, with even fellow lawmakers apparently kept in the dark.
Now, his family has confirmed his death, without specifying a cause of death.
“We are heartbroken to share that our husband and father passed away on Friday, Dec. 17. Please keep our family in your prayers and thank you for continuing to respect our privacy in this extremely difficult time,” Ericksen’s family said in a statement.
The state Senate Republican Caucus also confirmed Ericksen’s passing Saturday, with Senate Republican leader John Braun calling him “larger than life” in a written statement.
The last update on Ericksen’s legislative website apparently came on Nov. 1, shortly before he fell ill. In it, he railed against Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate for all state employees and health-care workers to be vaccinated, lamenting that “other states breathe free” while Washington authorities force out those who opt against vaccination.
In earlier posts on his site, Ericksen, an earlier backer of Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign, vowed to fight against “discrimination” of citizens who choose not to get vaccinated, comparing it to a civil rights issue.
“We need to stop discrimination before it begins,” he wrote last December, while drafting legislation to prohibit the firing of unvaccinated employees.
“Already we’re hearing that proof of vaccination could be required for everything from employment to the ability to board a plane, train or bus. But no decision is more personal than the choice of what to inject into your own body,” he wrote.
In an earlier post, he conceded that “COVID is serious business” but called for an end to lockdown orders, questioning if shutdowns were “in line with the actual threat to public health.”
While the Republican lawmaker had vowed to fight vaccine mandates, it was not immediately clear if Ericksen himself was vaccinated.
He leaves behind a wife and two children.