Deputy District Attorney and GOP activist Kelly Ernby wasn’t vaccinated when she died early this week after contracting COVID-19, according to comments her husband has posted on social media.
Despite the news, Republicans leaders who counted 46-year-old Ernby as a friend and who agreed with her opposition of vaccine mandates said Tuesday that their positions haven’t changed.
“I intend to continue, if invited, speaking out against the mandates, and also saying that my choice is to get vaccinated and I believe that should be the choice most people make, absent a genuine health concern or absent a religious objection,” said Orange County Third District Supervisor Don Wagner, who spoke with Ernby at an anti-mandate rally in Irvine on Dec. 4.
As to whether lending his voice to such events might discourage someone on the fence from getting a vaccine — or if his position poses a threat to public health — Wagner said most people know the stakes and have already made their choice.
When news of Ernby’s death broke Monday, her vaccination status wasn’t clear. Friends and colleagues contacted by the Register only knew that the Huntington Beach resident opposed vaccine mandates even before COVID-19 arrived, campaigning against such laws as far back as 2019. And Ernby’s family still hasn’t been reached for comment.
Her husband Axel Mattias Ernby shared her vaccination status on Facebook in response to false claims about Ernby, whose death has triggered feedback from people around the world on both sides of the political aisle seeking a poster child for their beliefs.
Many of the comments lament the fact that Kelly Ernby died at 46 from a disease that’s rarely fatal for healthy people who are vaccinated and boosted. Some dug up a previous tweet in which Ernby compared vaccine mandates to rules imposed by Nazi Germany. Some commenters went further, sharing Darwin signs and saying they’ve run out of sympathy for the unvaccinated — particularly those who publicly sow distrust in vaccines — as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 soars above 826,000 people.
But some GOP activists, such as former Assembly candidate Jon Paul White, shared false information that Ernby had been vaccinated and even suggested that the vaccine itself caused her death. Such comments drew a response from Axel Mattias Ernby, who asked one such commenter to “stop spreading lies.”
“She was NOT vaccinated. That was the problem,” he posted Monday evening, 12 days before what would have been the couple’s seventh anniversary.
Another commenter who said she was Ernby’s sister posted that most members of their family had been vaccinated and that one of the brothers was going to get his shot this weekend. She asked that people let the family mourn in peace.
Wagner said it’s frustrating to see comments on social media using his friend’s death to score political points, whether claiming Ernby died after receiving a vaccine or suggesting she deserved that outcome because she wouldn’t get one.
While he and his family are vaccinated and he doesn’t oppose vaccines, Wagner said he and Ernby shared the view that “at the end of the day, it is the choice of the individual to get vaccinated.”
He said knowing someone personally who apparently opted out of vaccination, became infected with COVID-19, and then died, doesn’t change his position on government-imposed vaccine requirements. He added that nearly 70% of OC residents are fully vaccinated, and the government “browbeating” people into a decision will just further polarize them.
On Tuesday, 5,930 positive COVID cases were reported in Orange County.
Amy Phan West — who also spoke with Ernby and Wagner at the Dec. 4 rally in Irvine and is running for Congress against Rep. Katie Porter — didn’t respond to questions about whether Ernby’s death might influence her stance on such issues going forward or if she’s personally vaccinated.
“Kelly Ernby was a friend of mine and she will be dearly missed,” West said. “Now is the time to come together in mourning and celebrate her life. I will not turn this into a partisan issue.”
Staff writer Alicia Robinson contributed to this report.
Source: Orange County Register