Men with COVID-19 urge people to wear masks, gender at greater risk than women, Johns Hopkins reports


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Two local men opened up about their battle with COVID-19. And they hope their stories serve as a warning for others to take the virus seriously.

As confirmed cases top 100,000 in Georgia and a little less than half of that in South Carolina, hospitalizations reached more than 12,000 in the Peach State.

So, two men want to share their story about how the virus is real.

“I’m stuck in this hospital bed. I have to be hand fed. I have to go to the bathroom in a bag,” said Augusta area drummer and DJ, Rusty Bonham.

He is sending a powerful message from ICU.

“Wearing a mask is not a satanic ritual,” he stated while lying in bed adding that some people were taking coronavirus lightly on social media.

He’s known around town as DJ Spindrum, playing in various bands too and before the pandemic, a drum teacher. But last week, Bonham was rushed to the hospital diagnosed with the very thing he fought so hard to avoid, COVID-19.

Bonham said, “I’m in this predicament because I went to a gig and I didn’t take the proper precautions.”

A husband and father of five, Bonham now has a BIPAP mask to breathe. His wife Sarah Jane Bonham told us they took the virus very seriously early on because of Rusty’s pre-existing health issues. They had been staying home since early March and avoiding public outings.

Augusta native Charles “Champ” Walker Jr., who lives in Atlanta, is also a mask advocate after being released from the hospital with COVID-19 too.

He said five of his family members tested positive.

Walker said they began having symptoms around Father’s Day. The businessman, who sells masks and donates them too through partnerships to frontline workers, said even though there are social distancing guidelines with Georgia reopening, being out still puts people at risk.

Walker said, “People trust select individuals. Those select individuals trust other select individuals and you don’t know.”

The fact that you’re seeing men in this story isn’t a surprise. Scientists at Johns Hopkins released a study showing that COVID-19 poses a greater risk for men than women. Researchers say that’s because women have more rapid and robust immune systems than men. Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone may be protective against COVID while testosterone can do the opposite in men. Cells lining the lung and airways could also be a factor. Also, underlying health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension statistically impact men.

Bonham’s wife shared Rusty has dealt with Type 1 diabetes since he was 12 and battles hypertension.

Both men say mask it up.

“Masks should not be politicized at all,” Walker said adding that after his experience, he feels hospitals are not prepared to handle the pneumonia-like impact.

Scientists also state that knowing how COVID-19 impacts men and women can lead to more effective treatments and vaccines.

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