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Unvaccinated COVID patient in Arkansas: Rejecting the shot is "playing Russian roulette with your life"

COVID cases, deaths rise among unvaccinated
COVID-19 cases, deaths rise among unvaccinated population in Arkansas 02:51

With new coronavirus cases nearly tripling in the past three weeks, COVID cases are up in all 50 states, for the first time since January.

Just four states – Missouri, Louisiana, Texas and Florida — made up 40% of new cases last week, with Florida home to one in five of all new cases nationwide.

In Arkansas, 12 out of every 100 people have tested positive. COVID patients in the state have been doubling every 10 days for the last month. 

Since January, 98% of people hospitalized because of COVID in Arkansas were unvaccinated. Their average age: 40.

"I thought the vaccine was a hoax," said 42-year-old Lamonte Boyd, a married father of three. He said he didn't listen to doctors or even his wife when she got vaccinated and told him he should, too.

He is now hospitalized at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

"CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud asked Boyd, "What did you think of COVID before you got sick?"

"I brushed it off," he replied. "I thought it was a joke."

Boyd was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago. He developed pneumonia in both lungs, and still, "right now, as we talk, my wind is short," he said. "That's why, you know, I'm really gasping for air now."

Begnaud asked, "There are going to be a lot of people watching who don't want to take the vaccine; what would you say to them?"

Boyd said, "I would tell those who don't want to take the vaccines: you playing Russian roulette with your life."

Lamonte Boyd, who declined the vaccine, was diagnosed with COVID-19 nearly two weeks ago, and developed pneumonia in both lungs. CBS News

Arkansas has the third-lowest full vaccination rate in the country — a little over one-in-three people have gotten both of their shots. The state is now in its third surge.

At the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the largest hospital in the state, all 23 COVID beds are full, but they have 56 COVID patients in total, seven of whom came in overnight. They are using other hospital wings to house them.

Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor at Arkansas' only academic medical center, told Begnaud, "To put it into perspective, our team is in the fourth quarter right now, or maybe even double overtime. This is not the first quarter for this team. They're tired. It's tough."

Patterson has stood alongside the governor many times over the past year educating Arkansans about how effective the vaccines are. To those people who are still skeptical, he says: "Help me to understand who would convince you. If I haven't convinced you, help me to understand who would, and I will find that person, and we will talk to you."

A 62-year-old woman who didn't want "CBS This Morning" to use her name did want to speak to us for this story. She told Begnaud, "I regret it, not getting the COVID vaccination.

"It's hard to breathe, so I have oxygen — you can see it on me 24/7," she said. "And then there's occasions where I cough and I can't stop."

This woman was hospitalized for COVID in Little Rock, after refusing to get the vaccine.  CBS News

Begnaud asked, "What would you say to all those people who are spreading misinformation about the vaccine?"

"It's a life-or-death sentence — it's not a joke," she replied. 

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