He refused the shot, and COVID-19 nearly killed him. Local GOP party chair now urges vaccine

GOP activist still opposes vaccine mandates after battle with COVID-19

By: - September 21, 2021 6:00 am

Mark Korin, 64, shown shortly before he was intubated and on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19 in July. He had refused the vaccine and now is encouraging others to be vaccinated. Courtesy photo.

By the time Mark Korin leaves the hospital, he will have lost 40 pounds and spent nearly two months battling COVID-19. And he still has a long recovery ahead. 

The former Oak Grove mayor, chair of the Senate District 31 Republican Party and Trump supporter had refused the COVID-19 vaccine, believing he did not need it. Korin said he took zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C supplements to boost his immune system, declining an opportunity to get vaccinated at a Walgreens in July when he was there to pick up some medications. 

“You’re talking to a guy who should be dead,” Korin, 64, said in a Reformer interview from his hospital room, with his wife, Deb, present. 

He first experienced shortness of breath and a cough on July 29. Within days, his oxygen saturation level had dipped to 78%, far below the 95% or higher expected in someone healthy. He was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 7, and about 10 days later he was placed on a ventilator, worrying he might die while he was intubated. He spent seven days on the ventilator, and has so far spent 44 days at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. 

“I always believed, it’s just another virus,” he said. “I was wrong. I will be the first to admit: If I had taken the vaccine, I believe that I may have gotten sick, I probably wouldn’t be in the hospital. If I was in the hospital, I probably wouldn’t be on the ventilator.”

Across Minnesota and the country, ICUs and hospital beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated.  This week, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 757, the Minnesota Health Department reported, the highest number this year as the Delta variant spreads. 

Across the country, health care systems are under strain, with some hospitals putting off elective procedures as they deal with a surge in COVID-19 patients. Last week, Idaho released statewide “crisis standards of care,” giving hospitals, nurses and doctors an ethical framework for how to use scarce resources. 

In recent days COVID-19 has resumed its place as the leading cause of death in America. 

Korin said his near brush with death has changed his mind about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“The pros far outweigh the cons,” he said.

But still, he is against the government requiring people to be vaccinated. He said people are reluctant to be vaccinated  because they have grown to distrust institutions, including the government. 

“You don’t know how to trust,” he said. “I think the general population has lost their faith, not only in the government, but in what we’re being told. We believe it’s being manipulated to the benefit of whoever is in power.”

He and his wife have documented his journey on Facebook, providing near daily status updates on his condition. Some people have attacked Korin in the comments.

“It was so visceral. It was hatred,” he said of some of the comments, which included people berating him for not being vaccinated, while others criticized him for his change of heart on the vaccine. 

His recovery includes rebuilding his strength. He still struggles to walk on his own without becoming exhausted, and stairs are also difficult for him. He hopes to learn soon that he is well enough to leave the hospital.

Despite his long hospital stay, he plans to get vaccinated, taking his doctor’s advice that the virus can mutate and vaccination will confer greater protection.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.

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