The widow of a Florida police officer who died from COVID-19 has urged others to get the vaccine while speaking at his funeral.
Karen Weiskopf described how St. Petersburg officer Michael Weiskopf made a “risky decision” not to get vaccinated despite her best attempt to persuade him to do so, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
Michael Weiskopf died on August 27 from complications related to COVID aged 52. The funeral service for him took place at 1 p.m. at The Coliseum, on 535 4th Avenue North on August 31.
Speaking about COVID-19, Karen Weiskopf during the service: “I promise you, it’s grueling, dangerous—and it will destroy you.”
Prior to the funeral, the Department of Health set up a tent to provide vaccines in the parking lot of The Coliseum from 9 a.m. to noon. St. Petersburg Police said in a statement that the decision to provide vaccines was a part of Michael Weiskopf’s widow’s desire to “do everything she can to encourage” others to get their shots.
Following the funeral, the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County tweeted: “Condolences to Ms. Weiskopf and [thank you] for encouraging others to get their COVID19 vaccines. @HealthyPinellas was proud to assist her in this effort.”
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said that several officers have since decided to get the vaccine following Michael Weiskopf’s death. Holloway told the Tampa Bay Times he previously urged his officers to get vaccinated following a procession in Weiskopf’s honor.
“If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your co-workers, do it for your family — but do it for someone,” Holloway told the media who had gathered outside the vaccine tent in the parking lot.
During the service, local Rabbi Philip Weintraub also urged officers to get vaccinated, equating not protecting yourself from the virus to not wearing protective gear on duty.
“You put on a vest and you wouldn’t go into a dangerous situation without wearing a vest,” he said, via CW44 News At 10. “Get your vaccine.”
Tributes were paid to the officer who began his career with the St. Petersburg Department in 2003 and was assigned to the Traffic Section Crash Investigation Unit.
“Mike, the moment that you left me my heart split in two. One side is filled with our memories together. The other side died with you,” said Karen Weiskopf.
“Remembering you is easy. I do it every day, but missing you is a heartache that’s never going to go away.”
Phil Green, a friend of Michael Weiskopf, added: “Deeds not words comes to mind when I think of Mike. A devoted husband, son, brother and an amazing friend to all.
“If you were lucky enough to get that sideways grin when he was explaining some crazy thing that happened, expect tears of laughter and it was often.”
According to the latest figures, more than 11.3 million people—just over 52 percent of the population—have received both doses of the vaccine in Florida—a state which is currently experiencing record breaking hospitalizations and deaths.