COVID-19 Claims Third Winter Party Attendee

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 16, 2020

COVID-19 has claimed a third attendee of last month's Winter Party in Miami Beach, reports local NBC affiliate Channel 6.

The annual festival drew a large crowd of partygoers just as widespread awareness of the pandemic was reaching the U.S. As previosuly reported at EDGE, organizers of the 2020 edition of the Winter Party provided hand sanitizer, encouraged social distancing, and went with what they knew at the time. But the subsequent the news that one or more attendees — asymptomatic during the week-long festival — had tested positive for the new coronavirus sparked a backlash against the event.

The Winter Party took place March 4 — 10 this year. Organized by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Winter Party raises "critical funds for the LGBTQ community," text at the event's Twitter feed notes.

Other events in Florida also brought large crowds together. Spring breakers at one of Florida's many beaches, disregarding warnings about the contagion's highly communicable nature, were shown to have spread the illness to different parts of the country. Meantime, megachurch pastors in Florida and elsewhere insisted on calling their congregations together in person for worship, leading to one church leader's arrest. In Virginia, an evangelical pastor died after assuring his congregants that "God is larger than this dreaded virus," and assuring his followers that attendees at his church were "healed," media reports said.

In the weeks that followed the first headlines about a Winter Party attendee testing positive of the virus, two men who had been at the event succumbed to the illness. Now a third - 67-year-old Thom Carr, described in media reports as a "classical pianist" - has also died.

Though many people are not made seriously ill by the virus, some can be gravely affected. Most at risk are people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or conditions that leave them immune-compromised. Carr was diabetic, media reports noted.

Carr had attended the festival with his husband, J. Heider, reported local newspaper the Sun Sentinel. Both men developed coronavirus symptoms, but Carr's condition required hospitalization. Three weeks later, despite undergoing a plasma treatment prepared from Heider's donated blood -a treatment that, in theory, might transfer COVID-19 resistant antibodies from the donor to the recipient and help them fight off the virus - Carr succumbed.

Heider had spoken with Local 10 News during his husband's hospitalization, relating how "They're not allowing anyone into the hospital."

"I'm not allowed to hold his hand and tell him how much I love him," Heider added.

Local 10 news noted that Carr had released an album in 2014 that brought together solo piano renditions of "Broadway and Beyond"-themed music.

Heider took to Facebook to share the news, noting that he and Carr had been together for 35 years and adding, "Over the years and especially at this terrible time for the world, Thom brought us joy, music, his special creativity and talents. For that, we can be grateful."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis drew criticism for his belated response to the crisis. President Donald Trump's administration was reportedly informed about the impending pandemic as early as last November, but did little about it for months, with Trump initially dismissing COVID-19 as being little worse than the ordinary flu and reportedly suggesting that warnings and advisories around the outbreak were a "hoax" spun by political opponents to discredit his administration.

Even as the United States has surpassed all other nations in terms of COVID-19 cases, right-wing politicians around the country - and, in Michigan, armed protestors - have pushed back against social distancing measures that epidemiologists say are needed to "flatten the curve" of the viral spread - that is, slow the progress of the virus in order to avoid catastrophic overburdening of existing health facilities.

In some viral hotspots hospitals have been overwhelmed; New York City resorted to accepting medical help from Samaritan's Purse, a group led by Franklin Graham, which set up a tent in Central Park to treat COVID-19 patients in partnership with Mt. Sinai Hospital.

That partnership was not without controversy; as previosuly reported at EDGE, Samaritan's Purse requires volunteers to sign a "Statement of Faith" that denigrates LGBTQ people, dismisses their marriages, and claims that non-heterosexuals will go to "Hell," an afterlife posited by some Christians in which "sinners" are tortured in burning flames.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.